BOOK #: 13
REASON READ: ARC Challenge, New Authors Challenge, TwentyTen Challenge
PUBLISHER: Hyperion New York, 2009
GENRE: Nonfiction, Sociology
RATING: 4 Stars
It is a book about one big nasty prejudice- Racism.
In Searching for Whitopia, Rich Benjamin relates the two-year journey he took across what he calls "white America." He lists every city in the U.S. that is "whiter than the nation, its respective region, and its state," and he lives in three of them for roughly three months apiece- St. George in Utah, Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, and Forsyth County in Georgia. He shows what these places, "Whitopias" he calls them, are like, why they are actually growing not shrinking (as I naively expected) and he explains the implications of this phenomenon. What makes this all the more interesting? Benjamin is African American.
So the question I most wanted answered by reading this book is why are people moving towards whitopias and not away from them like I am inclined to do. Well, Benjamin discovers the reasons are not cut and dry.
"Most whites are not drawn to a place explicitly because it teems with other white people. Rather, the place's very whiteness implies other perceived qualities. Americans associate a homogenous white neighborhood with higher property values, friendliness, orderliness, hospitability, cleanliness, safety, and comfort. These seemingly race-neutral qualities are subconsciously inseparable from race and class in many whites' minds. Race is often used as a proxy for those neighborhood traits. And, if a neighborhood is known to have those traits, many whites presume--without giving it a thought--that the neighborhood will be majority white."
This is absolutely fascinating to me. Because in my line of work I have met just as many whites that I wouldn't touch with a pole vault pole than people of any other race. If I am prejudice in any way it is probably against lazy people (lazy by choice, not because they are physically or mentally unable to do something) and dirty people (don't mistake this for homeless- they are not interchangable)- no matter if they are rich or poor, black or white or purple. In fact, I am repulsed by the idea of Whitopias. Perhaps because of my age or my life experiences or where I was raised or went to school or the fact my family is now racially diverse, but people who are all the same bore me to tears. I didn't even enjoy working in a small town that was right outside of a city because everyone thought the same way and mostly acted the same way. I could never live in a small town away from a large urban area or out in the country and be truly happy. But that is just me.
If you are looking for a truly engaging look at this new sociological phenomenon, then I really recommend Benjamin's book. It is very enlightening and will have you re-evaluating your own sets of prejudices.
So what about you, readers? What do you think of these "whitopias?" Do you live in a predominately white area? What do you like or not like about it? (In case you are wondering whether you live in what is considered to be a "whitopia", click here to visit Benjamin's website where he offers up a short list. A longer list is available at the back of the book.)
More Reviews on Searching for Whitopia:
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