Rich Benjamin

You can learn a lot about race, much of it surprising, by living in the whitest cities in America.

Author of Searching for Whitopia

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Rich Benjamin | Author of Searching for Whitopia
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Even under the Trump presidency, America is more diverse than ever. And yet our neighborhoods don’t reflect this fact, divided as they are. To investigate the discrepancy, Rich Benjamin embarked on a 27,000-mile, two-year voyage through America’s whitest communities.  The capstone of his voyage is his acclaimed book Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America. 

“A daring feat of 21st Century exploration that will have you laughing and shuddering at the same time.”

— Barbara Ehrenreich on Searching for Whitopia

Selected as an Editor’s Choice by Booklist and the American Library Association, Searching for Whitopia asks America to imagine itself in 2042, when white people no longer are the majority.  He also chronicles the adventure in his viral TED Talk, which has been translated into 25 languages. Through this unique travelogue, Benjamin asks us to imagine what diversity, racial politics, and segregation could look like in our near future.  His groundbreaking study is one of few to have illuminated in advance the social-political forces propelling the political rise of Donald Trump.
 

A charming, 21st century Gulliver, Benjamin is a sharp observer of modern society and politics, speaking thoughtfully to the state of social change in the US.  As our notions of truth shift on a daily basis, Benjamin’s cultural and political analyses offer a lucid and unique view of life under the new American regime, appearing regularly in public debate in The New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC. Benjamin’s plainspoken observations aim to illuminate rather than intimidate. Speaking to why empathy matters now more than ever, Benjamin interweaves vital statistics throughout funny and humane stories of his travels. 

 

A writer of timely and widely-read journalism, like his New Yorker essay on the blockbuster film Get Out, Benjamin strives to engage Americans in a conversation about the our political and social prospects, looking deeper than day-to-day headlines and soundbites.

 

More than ever, Benjamin speaks to the growing presence of disruption.  In his own words, “The US is experiencing a moment of disruption—demographic, political, economic, work-force, social, and technological. Disruption is un-nerving the country.  But disruption can also positively galvanize the economy and democracy.” Disruption, he says, is more than harbinger of fear and intolerance.  It is a catalyst for social agency and progress in politics, society, business, and beyond.

 

Born in New York City, Benjamin grew up in far-flung places in the US and abroad. As a multi-disciplinary and future-looking thinker, Benjamin brings discerning expertise and unique personal insight to politics, cultural trends, class, race, social wellbeing, and demographics. Benjamin earned a PhD from Stanford University in Modern Thought and Literature. He is currently Senior Fellow at Demos, one of the leading progressive think tanks in the nation.

Testimonials

“Rich Benjamin’s visit to Santa Clara University was a huge hit. Benjamin gave a terrific talk. He has a knack for raising very sensitive issues in a way that gets beyond tired polarities but that doesn’t muffle the key issues of justice and the common good. Plus, he’s a great story-teller and he’s got a great story to tell.”

Santa Clara University
Testimonials

“Rich Benjamin gave a thought-provoking and compelling presentation of his odyssey through ‘Whitopia.’ It drew a large audience of Stanford faculty, students, and community members. Benjamin’s talk was followed by a lively question and answer period, and he also met with undergraduates at a special lunch meeting, which generated an in-depth conversation. Benjamin’s visit to our Research Institute was one of the best-attended and highly regarded talks of the academic year.”

Stanford University
Testimonials

“Rich Benjamin spoke on the last day of our seminar for middle and high school teachers. He did a phenomenal job. I could not have imagined a better summation of our week, since his talked helped guide the difficult conversations that followed. In the evaluations, participants said his talk was one of the highlights. One participant wrote: ‘I am so thankful that Facing History introduced us to Rich Benjamin, his book, and his research. This was eye opening for me personally and also will become an important element of my teaching.’”

Facing History and Ourselves
Testimonials

“Rich Benjamin offered a trenchant and compelling exploration of contemporary white flight. Bridging this trend with current political movements—e.g., the Tea Party—Benjamin facilitated a lively and meaningful discussion on the nuances of unconscious racism that continue to shape the American landscape. The audience responded with genuine and palpable appreciation.”

Columbia University
Testimonials

“Dr. Benjamin’s speech at the Powell School at The City College of New York was inspirational. He seamlessly tied his thought-provoking work to the everyday lives of our students, and reminded them to live courageously in the face of adversity. His encouraging and open remarks about his career path and personal journey towards a life of activism and civic engagement reinforced our students’ commitment to public service and affecting change.”

City College

Speech Topics

Diversity & Race
Anxious America Hope, Resentment, and Social Relations in All-White Enclaves

American neighborhoods and politics remain polarized—and are increasingly segregated according to race. White flight, dreams of upward mobility, exclusionary zoning, and racial anxiety have created more and more ‘whitopias’ across the country—places where safety and wholesomeness are often implicitly associated with ‘whiteness’ itself. In order to learn about the hopes and concerns of these enclaves, Rich Benjamin embarked on a 27,000-mile, two-year journey to the whitest, fastest-growing communities in America. What he found were largely friendly places that nevertheless conceal an underbelly of hostility: against immigrants, Muslims, coastal elites, and central government. These are places made up of people who felt pushed out by what they perceived to be broken institutions: think ‘the nuclear family,’ the classroom, the ‘Border,’ the economy, and urban culture.

Leaving behind speculation or sensationalism—and without grievance—Rich Benjamin explores the future of race relations in an increasingly multicultural nation (after all, whites will no longer form the majority by 2042). He speaks thoughtfully to the state of social change in the US, helping diverse audiences navigate contemporary social relations, democracy, and demographics. Perfect for corporate organizations seeking to address workplace diversity, or for college audiences wanting to understand how today’s battles over reproduction, work, taxation, and immigration are waged, Benjamin offers customized, original, and revealing keynotes for anyone seeking a deeper investigation of America today.