diversity & race | January 26, 2016

Anxiety in ‘Whitopia,’ USA: Introducing New Speaker Rich Benjamin

America is steadily becoming more racially diverse (by 2042, white people will no longer form the majority). Nevertheless, actual US communities are becoming more racially segregated, with all-white neighborhoods spreading rapidly across the country. Rich Benjamin calls these spots ‘Whitopias’—and he explores their implications in his hit TED Talk, as well as in his book Searching for Whitopia. Why are whites fleeing urban and suburban areas in great numbers? What draws them to these all-white communities? What are the values, hopes, and concerns of their residents? And what does this increasing segregation mean for American race relations, diversity, democracy, and other institutions? With humor and insight—and without grievance—Rich Benjamin helps us understand the changing social fabric of America.

Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America tells the story of Benjamin’s 27,000-mile, two-year journey to the whitest places in the US: communities in Georgia, Idaho, Utah, and beyond composed of people seeking safety, comfort, and high property values—‘wholesome’ values often implicitly associated with ‘whiteness’ itself. After living in these largely well-off neighborhoods, meeting the people and enmeshing himself in their lives, Benjamin reveals their often troubling conservative core, much like a good social anthropologist. He reports on communities energized by nativist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim sentiments; hostility toward coastal elites and leftists; and a lament over what residents perceive to be ‘broken institutions’ (think the family, the economy, the border, and the classroom). He reveals the grassroots conservatism that propels much of Trump’s popularity. And he offers another look at America’s most important rifts: how urbanism, social integration, and movements like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street can exist within the same nation as one with such white flight.

Throughout his career, Rich Benjamin has brought a unique perspective to politics, class, race, and social wellbeing. His book was selected as an Editor’s Choice by Booklist and the American Library Association. Barbara Ehrenreich calls it “A daring feat of 21st Century exploration that will have you laughing and shuddering at the same time.” His contributions to political and cultural anaylses are often featured on NPR, MSNBC, C-Span, and FOX, and in SalonThe Huffington Post, and The New York Times. A PhD from Stanford, today Benjamin is a senior fellow at Demos, the NYC-based progressive think tank.

As America transforms, business, government, and education will have to adapt. How much more will America’s cities empty of whites? How much longer, and more impactful, will this migration be? How will the country relate to itself—in its schools, offices, streets, and at the election booths—as the nation becomes more racially segregated? With sharp cultural insights, the wit and timing of a natural storyteller, and with the ability to see the big picture, Rich Benjamin offers a timely look at today’s America: full of anxiety, tension, and hope.

To hire author and analyst Rich Benjamin as the keynote speaker of your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

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education | January 25, 2016