Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review by Shellie: Searching for Whitopia by Rich Benjamin

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Mini Synopsis:

By the year 2042 white people will be a minority in the United States. With this in mind, Rich Benjamin takes a trip around the country where he explores the areas of the US where the majority of the population, curiously, is not a blend of color. He then strives to define these enclaves, which he terms “Whitopias”. They are popping up in spots all over the country for reasons which he questions in his book. As he does his personal research in this sort of “reverse ethnography”, he boldly goes into the territory to interview, live with, and experience the life style which defines these areas and the population.

My Thoughts:

Rich Benjamin is a very intelligent, highly educated, and extremely articulate individual. His writing is lyrical, satirically humorous and sensitive, and he has a very advanced fashion sense which adds some levity to the book. He is thorough and backs up his findings with statistics and references - be aware this book is somewhat academic in nature. But most significantly he’s brave, and goes into areas which for me as a white person would even be scary; areas where there are known connections with extremists who may threaten violence to people of color and/or their supporters.

He is welcomed warmly within these “white enclaves”, and what he finds is interesting, enlightening, and often quite difficult to swallow. It was for me. Although Benjamin specifically states that as a culture we have moved mostly beyond blatant personal racial discrimination, racism still exists within most static bureaucratic structures within the country. He also supports the adage that classism and racism are intimate partners. Knowing that both also exist among these “Whitopias” he further supports their link within the text.

This is a great book. My only negative thoughts around it is that it is so information packed it will probably not be a quick or easy read for most. It wasn’t for me. More importantly the subject matter is emotional and difficult, and one which many people do not want to deal with. Although the author does a brilliant job of attempting to making light of some situations, how can it be? Sadly, and most significantly, I also do not believe it will actually reach his intended audience. Considering myself for example, although white, to me I believe he is “preaching to the choir” - albeit I am the white kid in the back, who doesn’t quite know the words, and whom annoyingly sings a bit off key, but I certainly won’t stop singing. I give this excellent yet difficult book 4.5 stars.

For more information on the book, the author, as well as purchasing links please see Layers of Thought's preview for Searching for Whitopia.

Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

11 comments:

ThePageTurner said...

I will be putting this on my to-read shelf. Thanks Shellie.

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Rose -
You don't need to buy the book, I will bring it out to you on our next visit. :)

Aarti said...

This is an excellent review, Shellie. I like that the author backs up his research, and that he isn't afraid to lay bare the stark facts of reality. It's important for books to do that, particularly on such touchy subjects.

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Aarti -
Thanks :)

He's an extremely meticulous writer... so much so that I could only read several pages here and there because it was so dense.

It is sadly a touchy subject - I truly expected no responses around the review.

Glad you stopped by!

Hayduke said...

Thanks for you review of Whitopia. We recently got the book in stock, and it intrigued me. I'll be putting it on my "to-read" list.

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Mark -
Thanks so much for stopping by to comment - and I appreciate that you will be selling it.

I will look forward to your thoughts and experiences around it and how it sells and what your customers think.

You know I almost did not post the review thinking that like the preview of the book there would be no feedback.

This is great!

DCMetroreader said...

I too found this to be a very thought provoking and well written book. While I did not agree with all of the author's points (for instance sometimes I felt the issue was more one of class (as in certain exclusive co-ops in NYC) or safety (as in parents with young children who moved to small towns) rather than race)I did find it generally enlightening. I also applaud the author for going firsthand to talk to the residents.

Nice review

Charlie said...

To think that the Aryan Nation would accept a Black man in their enclave is truly amazing.

And for some reason, I thought that Whites were already outnumbered by the combined "minorities."

Racism is a terrible thing, but it's alive and well in the USA.

Very good review, Shellie.

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Kim -
Absolutely many of the issues are directly related to class. And racial and class structures are intimate partners.

These are very complex issues, with really no easy answer. But what I liked about what Benjamin did was he dealt out facts - without making judgments which is what one does within an ethnography.

One cannot blame wealthy individuals from wanting to live in higher class areas... and of course they do tend to be very white as a general rule.

Thanks, and I am so glad you came by to comment. :)

Charlie -
You know I was thinking about it too... how these white folks welcomed the author into their world. The funny thing is that the position taken by them is one of separatism, and they were very clear about this.

Yes racism still exists more subtly than in the past and sadly I believe it will for generations.

Alexia561 said...

I find myself amazed that racism and whitopias still exist in the 21st century. I'm white, but actually a minority at work. Have never had any problems, and never could understand why someone would judge someone else based on the color of their skin. Guess I'm still a little naive.

This book would probably be a little too serious for me, but sounds interesting. Thanks for the great review!

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Alexia -
It is a meaty read, but it does have its lightness.. the author is actually very funny, and does a brilliant job considering the content.

Thanks for commenting.:)

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