Friday, October 9, 2009

Whitopia at Sundown

" By 2042, whites will no longer be the American majority. As immigrant populations -- largely people of color -- increase in cities and suburbs, more and more whites are moving to small towns and exurban areas that are predominately, even extremely, white. Rich Benjamin calls these enclaves "Whitopias" (pronounced: "White-o-pias").
A couple of days ago I listened with ever increasing interest to a program on NPR featuring Rich Benjamin, the author of the new book Whitopia.
Benjamin a black journalist, went to live in 3 enclaves that are overwhelmingly white communities. Places like St. George, Utah or Couer d 'Alene, Idaho. His book looks at this phenomena and without any heavy handed message, simply asks some questions about how the changing demography of the U.S. will impact our lives.
By the way, Benjamin was treated very well in these all-white communities, enjoyed playing golf, talking to people, and moving about without any problems.
After the program I logged on to the NPR web site and began to read the many comments that came filtering in. Lot's of spirited dialogue. Most folks took offense at there being something wrong with communities that don't seem to care about diversity. I was a bit surprised. Any notion that we are living in a post-racial America died right there on the computer screen.
"What's wrong with people living where they want to live? You liberals and bleeding-hearts can go on and live in your "diverse" crime-infested, trashed communities all you want; just stop guilt-tripping me about this. What about a blacktopia? or a browntopia?"

(Isn't that a ghetto?) If it is, there's not too much topia about it.)

Lots of fear,
Lots of anger,
Very little knowledge and understanding of American history, in my view.
One of the people who commented on the NPR site did mention another important book. She cited Sundown Towns, by James Loewen. The were (and still are) towns which had laws that no non-white person could remain after the sun went down. Now some folks find this rather hard to believe. They need only study history to document this claim. This puts a different spin on the reason why people decide to live where they do.
Taking a peek at other sites and discussion boards about Whitopia, it's clear that the systemic segregation in this country is not an important issue for many people.
How does that bode for the future? No wonder there is a cultural war. No wonder our schools are so segregated.
This story contrasts sharply with the murder of a black honors student in the meanest streets of Chicago last week. Lots of finger pointing there. Imagine, some folks blaming the teachers in that community. When so many young people are aimless, violent, without moral emotions, without families, it's a no brainer.
When I see the departure of so many tangible things like books, newspapers, school budgets, music made by musicians on real instruments...
I wonder about life in 2042.

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