Published on Alternet, by Lewis Beale, October 7, 2009.
Some of the fastest-growing areas in America are also the most Caucasian — author Rich Benjamin’s new book explores the new establishment of white ghettos.
In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where 95 percent of the population is white, Rich Benjamin saw more Confederate flags than black people. Not that Benjamin was looking for suggestions of racism, but in his forthcoming book, Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America (Hyperion, Oct. 6), he was trying to discover why some of the fastest-growing areas in America are also the most Caucasian …
… Benjamin also notes that a significant proportion of the people moving to these white enclaves are older folks with specific fears and agendas. And the Obama presidency has only heightened those qualms and, in some cases, brought out nativist impulses.
“When you look at the tea bag protests, and the birther movement, this is an existential crisis facing conservative white Americans,” Benjamin says. “They don’t want to expand government dependence, and they link big government to city people and minorities who are perceived to be on the dole. These Americans are fearing where the country is going economically, racially and government-wise.”
That 40 percent of Americans under 24 are non-white, and that whites will no longer be in the majority by 2042, only serves to make this unease more palpable. So in the near future “there may be a democracy gap where older whites, who are more inclined to vote, have the power to determine the outcome of politics,” Benjamin says. “That means there will be spending for older people, like Medicare and Social Security, and the lack of spending for young brown people, like public education. There will be different priorities in funding.”
And whether or not the younger generation will have different political values than their elders is, Benjamin says, up in the air. He feels Obama’s popularity among young people could mean “long-term brand loyalty to the Democrats, and progressive values. But it’s equally likely white members of this generation can be anti-government in a way that’s racialized. When you poll on immigration, for example, the difference between the young and their parent’s views is indiscernible.”
In the meantime, Bishop believes that the crazy quilt of cultures and values the big sort has created just “makes any sort of national change harder. We get by, but what we lack is an ability to do things that are transformative. The metro and state areas are where the action is in terms of new policy. Who has the first universal health insurance? Massachusetts. Cities are doing experiments in power production; school districts are experimenting with buying food locally.
“At the local level you will have this experiment in policy, and at the national level you will have this congestion.” (full 2 pages text).