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Rich Benjamin, Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America (New York: Hyperion, 2009). [Thesis. So many white Americans are moving to largely white communities, indifferent to widening segregation and yawning socioeconomic inequality, that "a de facto way ethnic and class Balkanization" risks becoming "a semipermanent feature of American life."] Introduction. "Despite Obama's historic milestone, America remains a highly segregated society" (5; 1-5). White flight (5-8). How Benjamin conducted his research project (8-12). Small towns, boomtowns, and dream towns (12-14). PART ONE Ch. 1: Utah's Dixie. In SE Utah, St. George has the nation's "fastest white population growth" (17-18). Friendliness and a "sense of community" (18-20). House hunting with (surprise!) a black realtor (20-24). Anti-Latino immigrant Phyllis Ann Sears and her "saga of perpetual white flight" (24-30). Poker (31-33). More house hunting (33-36). A Citizens Council on Illegal Immigration meeting (36-39). Fishing (40-41). House hunting, part 3 (41-45). "Jim," who complains about politicians pandering to the Latino vote, is "a bilingual Chicano" who "easily passes as white" (45-48). Dixie's conservative culture shows friction between "business-driven conservatives" and "anti-illegal immigration social conservatives" and some tensions between Mormons (about 65% of the population) and nonMormons, with undercurrents of racism (48-54). The author invites Col. & Mrs. Sears to dinner (54-58). Ch. 2: The Latino Time Bomb. "In one generation—between 1970 and 2006— the number of Mexicans in the United States increased more than tenfold, from 760,000 to 11.97 million" (60; 59-62). Roy Beck, cofounder of Numbers USA ("a green, sixties-style Southern integrationist, neo-nativist, populist, free market social conservative"), argues that the number of immigrants in the U.S. is excessive because it is bad for the middle class (62-71). Benjamin sympathizes with demonstrators at the 2006 demonstrations supporting undocumented aliens (71-75). The aging of baby boomers magnifies anxieties about the "Latino Time Bomb," but it is a deeply misunderstood fact that the two groups need each other (75-79). Crime is being used to stigmatize Latino youth (79-82). Whitopians fear for "America's rule of law, its value of limited government, and its 'cultural integrity,'" as well as welfare costs (82-83). "Latino immigrants are disrupting the old script on race and poverty in America" (83). Some argue this shows the nation's character has changed (84-89). "America pits a Winning Class against an Anxious Class" (86). Patriotism (patriotAmericans) vs. cosmopolitanism (postAmericans) (87-89). Failure to address the problem of illegal immigration is short-circuiting normal class circulation for immigrants (89-91). Ch. 3: Golf As It Was Meant to Be. Thoughts on golf (92-94). Appealing to white males, "[g]olf is central to much of Whitopia" (94-96). Grant Rogers of Brandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon (99-105). PART TWO Ch. 4: Almost Heaven. Drinking with an Idaho redneck (109-11). Coeur d'Alene (111-13). Richard Butler's Aryan Nations have receded (113-15). Relaxed friendliness (115-16). California transplants (116-18). Sandpoint locals
(118-20). Economic growth brings class tensions (120-26). Limited federal government, low taxes, private property rights, and gun ownership are sacred tenets; hostility to Californians; attachment to the land (126-32). A popular relocation spot for retired LAPD officers (132-37). The author at a church's three-day conference for Christian Identity, which claims to be racialist rather than racist (137-44). Ch. 5: Privacy Is an Attribute of Good Living. Manhattan's Carnegie Hill neighborhood, 90% non-Hispanic white (145-58). "Town House People," e.g. Priscilla and Chris Whittle, founder of Edison Schools (158-67). Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's home at 1040 Fifth Ave., now owned by Glenn Dubin (16771). Co-op boards can arbitrarily refuse buyers (171-77). Residential segregation in New York City (178-79). After posing as a co-op home buyer: "I don't know whether Carnegie Hill's co-ops racially discriminate. I only know their prevalence contributes to the neighborhood's undeniable whiteness of being" (179-83). No one at 1040 Fifth Avenue will talk (183). Ch. 6: The Geography of Homogeneity; or, What's Race Got to Do with It? Most whites in Whitopia are "endearing and kind"; contemporary racial segregation may not be deliberate and intentional; proving intentional discrimination in housing law is difficult (184-90). Distinguishing between interpersonal and institutional and structural racism (190-92). "[M]any white Americans hate to talk about race," for various reasons (192-95). "In the Whitopian 'us versus them' outlook, America has two basic groups: those working hard . . . versus those . . . enjoying a free ride," and Whitopians are "perfectly comfortable with widening segregation and yawning socioeconomic inequality that often breaks along racial lines" (196).
PART THREE Ch. 7: Land of the Free, Home of the Braves. New Year's Eve 2008 in Forsyth County, Georgia (199-200; 205-06; 22628; 252-53). Fast-growing Forsyth County (200-05). Real estate development (205-26). History of Forsyth County (228-33). Debates on growth exacerbate class tensions (23337). First Redeemer, a megachurch (237-42). Forsyth's history of racial violence, which drove blacks out in 1912 (242-46). The 1987 march (246-49). Today Forsyth County passes over this history in silence (249-52). Ch. 8: Exurb Nation: From the Hard Right to the Marshmallow Center. Warren County, NJ (253-56). Exurbs (256-58). Their growth is fueled by "a search for people like themselves" (25861). Interview with Ed Gillespie, GOP counselor to the president (261-65). Exurbs' history begins with Nixon's Silent Majority, fueled by racial animus, and was extended by Reagan (265-70). GOP positioning (270-74). Obama's victory was not due to ideological factors (27475). Obama is an expert on appealing to the Marshmallow Center—white and squishy (275-82). Ch. 9: Potomac 20584. Reflections on "the inner-ring D.C. suburbs" where the author grew up (283-87). His mugging in 2006 in Brooklyn (287-90). Both racism and a "culture of poverty" are relevant to the situation of blacks in urban ghettos (290-96). "[T]he black-white paradigm is dead" (296-98). The situation of Latinos (299-300). Brooklyn's DUMBO [Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass] (300-02). Conclusion: Toward the Common Good. The harm in Whitopia "is that it's leading Americans to accept in a de facto way ethnic and class Balkanization as a semipermanent feature of American life. Whitopia imperils a collective commitment to the common good" (303-
04; 303-06). "Our racial thinking needs a truly twenty-first-century upgrade" (308). Research like Robert Putnam's show diversity weakens support for public investment in social welfare (309-11). But "the long-term rewards of an integrated, democratic society are so rich that they demand pursuing. And the alternative consequences would be severe" (311). We should pursue "cooperation and trust" (312-14). We should pursue a vision of the common good that counters "the anachronistic rights-based outlook" being used by "whites in recent decades" (314-19). Hints at the author's family story (319).
Appendix. "Extreme Whitopias" (counties 90%+ white) (321-24). "Whitopian counties" (85-90% white) (325-30). "Whitopian metropolitan/micropolitan areas" (331-32). Acknowledgments. Friends, staff, scholars, colleagues, publisher, family (333-35). About the Author. Rich Benjamin is senior fellow at the think tank Demos. He has appeared
widely in mainstream media. His B.A. is from Wesleyan (where Norman Shapiro was his French teacher ) and his Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature is from Stanford. [Additional information. Rich Benjamin's undergraduate major was English and his Ph.D. is in Modern Thought and Literature. He has taught or held research positions at Stanford, Brown, and Columbia. Until Chapter 9, Benjamin is rather elusive about his own story. He was born after 1970 (230) raised with "high-investment parenting" (335) ("an Episcopal father and a Catholic mother" ) as an "upper-middleclass black" (195) in "a lily-white suburban neighborhood in Potomac, Maryland" (283), lived in Harlem, the Lower East Side of Manhattan, San Francisco's Noe Valley/Mission District, Cincinnati's Clifton (292), and since 2005 in Brooklyn (291).] [Critique. Whitopia is a graceful, upbeat, entertaining, insightful, and thought-provoking volume by a gifted writer who is an acute, generous-minded, and humane observer with a sharp prose style. But it is a curiously insular and determinedly mainstream book: it never compares the United States to other nations, and it never mentions U.S foreign policy or its role in the world or things like corporatocracy, globalization, or militarism.]
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