Thursday, October 15, 2009
Searching for Whitopia - An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America by Rich Benjamin
The glow of Barack Obama’s historic election cannot obscure the racial and economic segregation that still vexing America. Obama’s presidency has actually raised the stakes in a battle royale between two versions of America: one hat is broadly comfortable with diversity yet residentially segregated (Obama Nation), and one that does not mind a little ethnic food or a few mariachi dancers-as long as these trends do not overwhelm a white dominant culture (Whitopia).
~ Rich Benjamin
When I first saw the title of this book I was psyched about reading it. I am always curious about race relations in America because I believe we skirt around the issues. After reading this book my views have been validated. This book was fascinating and disturbing all at the same time. Who knew there was a nation of white folks that have decided to check out of America to live their concept of Utopia? Mr. Benjamin travels to cities and counties where whites are in the 90% and above majority. And the residents are extremely happy with being in the majority (to the point of being joyful even). Benjamin surprisingly weaves his way through the maze of Whitopia with such ease you keep forgetting that he is black. He lives in these communities for months at a time and converses with their members. The most amazing thing about the politicians, white separatists, and other community members is how human they appear. They are not the red faced angry white males that have a rope in one hand and a shot gun in the other. But regular American’s that long for the “days of old.” Benjamin also gives a thorough analysis of the forces that have led to the formation of these communities. But for every Ying there must be a Yang. So for Benjamin to discuss Whitopia, he must discuss the opposite end of the spectrum – “The Projects”. Benjamin doesn’t pull any punches on minority issues but he doesn’t purposely beat blacks and Latinos up. This book should challenge us as individuals to take a deep look at ourselves. Our Presidents always campaign on uniting the country. If they are serious, they are going to have to work a lot harder.