Non-Fiction Book Reviews
Book Review: Searching for Whitopia
By Sandy Amazeen Oct 18, 2009, 20:37 GMT
"Benjamin examines the history, politics, economics, and culture of race and class as seen in the growth of these `whitopias,\' racially and therefore socioeconomically exclusive communities from the exurb St. George, Utah to the inner-city enclave of Carnegie Hill in Manhattan. . . . This is a thoroughly engaging and eye-opening look at an urgent social issue." --Booklist starred review "Benjamin goes where no (sane) black ...more
Benjamin, a Stanford educated NPR journalist spent three months living in three communities identified as whitopia, those places where whites make up a larger segment of the population then seen in the rest of the nation. The author did not disclose the exact nature of the book he was writing while getting a feel for life in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, St. George, Utah and Forsyth County, Georgia. Meant to be an expose’ on the exclusive nature of predominately white communities as they search for the quieter, safer life reminiscent of the 50’s, what emerges is a more one-dimensional work then might be expected.
Benjamin ignores similar predominantly black, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, Jewish or other strongly ethnic communities and what makes them tick in favor of wagging a finger at whitopia. In all fairness, the author does avoid most racial stereotypes but including other ethnic neighborhoods would have presented a clearer picture of the forces at work in self-segregated communities, especially as the point of this book is to argue for more diversity.
While few deny the value of interracial interactions in schools, workplace and neighborhoods, Benjamin ignores the simple fact that people with similar interests and backgrounds tend to gravitate toward one another. Often, it is not something people are conscious of doing, rather like herd animals operating on instinct. Although interesting, to make a valid point, the scope of “closed” communities needed to be expanded in order to examine the similarities and differences between them.