A Black Author's Journey Into American 'Whitopia' In his book, Searching For Whitopia, Rich Benjamin lists every city in the U.S. that is "whiter than the nation, its respective region, and its state." He explains why "whitopias" are growing, and what it means for the U.S.
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A Black Author's Journey Into American 'Whitopia'

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A Black Author's Journey Into American 'Whitopia'

A Black Author's Journey Into American 'Whitopia'

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Imagine, a small town with lovely houses, silent lakes, pristine parks, Saturday morning soccer practice and serene Sunday morning church, doors can be left unlocked and everybody knows each others' kids by name. Places like St. George, Utah, Couer d'Alene in Idaho, Forsythe County, Georgia. Places that show up on everybody's list of best places to live. Places that writer Rich Benjamin noticed, are overwhelmingly white. They are also booming as what he describes as refugees of diversity, flood into communities that seem like throwbacks to the 1950s.

Retirees, yes, but young couples and single 30 something's too. If this is your story, call and tell us what made you decide to move there and how it's working out? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site that's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the hour, we'll also talk about the health care debate in colonial America and the first years of the Republic, when we faced small pox and yellow fever. But first, Rich Benjamin, who traveled thousands of miles and spent time living in the three communities, I mentioned. His book is called, "Searching For Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America." And he joins us now from our bureau in New York. And thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. RICH BENJAMIN (Author, "Searching For Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America"): Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And what's your definition of Whitopia?

Mr. BENJAMIN: Well, you know, Whitopia has three important traits. The first is that it has grown by at least six percent since 2000. The second is that a majority of that growth has to be from white migrants. And the third is that it has to have, you know, a je ne sais quoi, a special look, feel and social charm.

CONAN: And people may think that there are relatively few of these but by your definition in the back of the book, you have a list of Whitopian counties across the country, it's nine pages long.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes. I myself was surprised to find out how many communities in America fit that bill.

CONAN: And you went to visit and live in three of them. And it is curious, you describe uniformly places that are really, really nice.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes, they are nice in certain ways. They look beautiful. There is a neighborliness to them. The real estate is gorgeous, but that's one part of nice that I described. There is a lingering, a simmering social tension in many of them regarding the political issues of the day.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. In one community in Utah, St. George, Utah, you visit the anti-immigration society.

Mr. BENJAMIN: I sure do, the Citizens Council Against Illegal Immigration. And this was a debate that really raged there and that there are people there, who feel strongly against immigration. And so, I learned a lot about that.

CONAN: This is a place that describes itself through many, many years as Utah's Dixie. And I just wonder, as a black man, how comfortable you felt there?

Mr. BENJAMIN: Well, on a day-to-day basis, living my life, shopping for groceries, having a key cut, coming to and from the golf course, I felt quite comfortable. I mean, people were very personable and very friendly there. And that's part of the trait of a Whitopia.

CONAN: Very friendly, very personable. People bringing you over dinner and inviting you out to lunch and playing poker and all these other things.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Exactly. And I had them as guests in my home, too.

CONAN: And uniformly nice, yet there is that underlying tension. You describe these people, the new ones who've moved in as refugees of diversity.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes. And some of them described themselves that way. I remember going to a meeting there and a woman said, well, I have left California, I've left Arizona and now that quote, unquote, "illegal immigration," is coming to Utah, you guys will have a taste of why I left. And so, they're sort of anticipating a negative future. And that's why some of them are in Utah's Dixie is because, you know, they're worried about what diversity and immigration specifically have done to places like Southern California or Arizona.

CONAN: And the places they are largely leaving from - and you point out that at the same time, America is becoming less and less white, these communities are becoming more and more white.

Mr. BENJAMIN: In some cases, yes. In America, as we know, by 2042, white Americans will lose their majority status. And so, here we do have these growing Whitopias that are predominantly, even extremely white.

CONAN: And in part, it's that search for that mythical 1950s neighborhood, to live next door to the Cleavers.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes, it is. There's a lot of nostalgia. I think, one of the most poignant comments I remember, interviewing someone in one of these communities is - her telling me about our childhood in California during the 1950s. And she says quote, "you know, California was a little paradise."

CONAN: Was, is the operative word, I guess.


CONAN: Yeah. Go ahead, I'm sorry.

Mr. BENJAMIN: To her opinion, yes, was.

CONAN: To her opinion. And there are others, though, and you're writing about your time in Couer d'Alene saying, you know, single people or the guys you're playing poker with and saying, you know, wait a minute, if we could leave here, why - you're from New York. What are you doing here?

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes, it would. People who don't have homes or can't entertain i.e., young people…

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BENJAMIN: …people who can't take advantage of all these amenities. They would say, well, what are you doing in our community if you live in New York?

CONAN: We want to get some callers in on the conversation. Our guest is Rich Benjamin, the author of "Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America." If you live in one of these communities, it's like he's describing, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. And we'll start with Raymond(ph). Raymond calling us from Augusta, Georgia.

RAYMOND (Caller): Hi, Neal.


RAYMOND: I just wanted to call and say, I lived in - I was born and raised in Forsythe County. And I moved from there to Augusta, Georgia, when I was about 18. And it wasn't until I moved to Augusta that I actually interacted with anybody of really any other racial background than myself, like we had no - well, we had a couple of Asian students in my high school in South Forsythe but we had no other minorities to speak of. Like, it was a real cultural shock to actually move somewhere where, you know, people were different than I.

CONAN: And was it as nice in Forsythe as Rich Benjamin says it is?

RAYMOND: Oh, it was a great growing up there, like, it was, you know, idyllic childhood. But, like, I've been back since to visit friends and family and it's just not the same anymore. It's just urban sprawl everywhere, and it's just people that I knew that used to live there are moving to the northern part of the county or even further north.

CONAN: So, that to escape what they - because it's being taken over by Atlanta?


CONAN: Yeah.

RAYMOND: Definitely.

CONAN: Yeah. Rich Benjamin?

Mr. BENJAMIN: Well, that's fascinating. Everything is relative. I understand why someone would say that Forsythe feels like urban sprawl. But being from a city, it still felt a little rural to me. And, however, what distinguished Forsythe from the other communities I visited is like the caller pointed out, it is exurban, it does feel suburban, which means you do have traffic jams. So, it's a little bit of both. It's almost like country living with suburban perks. And I completely agree with his assessment.

CONAN: Raymond, what have you gained since moving to Augusta, what have you lost?

RAYMOND: Well, I've gained a new sense of inclusion with others, if you will, like I'm more accepting of others…

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

RAYMOND: …now that I've had to deal with people that are different from myself. I've actually had to get out there and meet people, so to speak, so.

CONAN: Yeah.

RAYMOND: I think I'm taking a little bit better off for it. But, you know, I definitely wouldn't have traded my childhood growing up there for anything.

CONAN: Raymond, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

RAYMOND: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. There is a different world outlook that you're describing in some of these places that - places that you describe as patriotic America as opposed to post-America, and explain what you mean by that, Rich Benjamin.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Well, I would credit Sarah Palin with coining that phrase, patriot America, and when she was on the campaign trail in two-oh-eight, she thanked the people who came to listen to her as the real, quote-unquote, patriot Americans who keep this country humming.

So that would be, you know, the stereotype of red, conservative America, people who national identity means something versus post-Americans, people who don't necessarily have as much in common with their own countrymen as they would maybe someone in France or Singapore or Japan. In other words, it's an American national citizenship versus a global citizenship.

CONAN: And we tend to think of that, at least in political terms, as people on the coasts having a little bit more of a cosmopolitan world outlook and people in the middle not so much.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes. However, the book sort of tries to put that divide behind us because there were examples of Whitopia that did vote for Obama, and for example, if you look at the CNN Money Best Places to Live list that was just released, 2009, Louisville, Colorado, which is in Boulder County, is a lily-white Whitopia that went for Obama. So it doesn't always break down neatly between what people call red and blue-state America. But I do often break it down between patriot Americans and post-Americans.

CONAN: Let's talk with Suzie(ph), Suzie with us from Salt Lake City.

SUZIE (Caller): Hi. I actually grew up in St. George, Utah. So I went to high school there and everything else, and it's not a very diverse place. It's a big retirement community, among other things, but I think it kind of is a little bit disservicing to the people that live there because you don't get that diversity.

I ended up moving to California later, and then I live in Salt Lake City now, but I wasn't exposed at all to diversity, and I think it's a little bit of a culture shock for people when they live in these towns and then move to a big city or move to another state where, wow, this is how the world is. It's not like this little town that I grew up in.

CONAN: And you enjoyed your time, though, in St. George?

SUZIE: Yeah, it's a wonderful community, very, you know, very open, friendly people, very safe-feeling, but it does lack that diversity, absolutely.

CONAN: All right, Suzie, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

SUZIE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. It was interesting. One of the women you spoke to in St. George said: I moved in part from California because I was the president of the Republican Club, I think in Berkeley, and I wanted to be among people of like political persuasion and weren't going to find too many in California.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes, see, that particular person lived in Southern California.

CONAN: Oh, excuse me.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes, but it's true, and she told me very bluntly that that's one of the reasons she came to St. George, Utah.

CONAN: We're talking about life in Whitopia. Rich Benjamin is with us. If this is your story, what made you decide to move there or move away, as we've been hearing. How is it working out for you? We'll get to more of your calls in a moment, 800-989-8255 is the phone number. The email address is talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking today with Rich Benjamin about his book "Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America." You can read why one woman left Los Angeles behind for St. George, Utah in an excerpt on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

We got this email from Linda in Roanoke, Virginia. I definitely live in Whitopia. I live in an area of Virginia where it seems half the folks drive old pickup trucks with hound dogs in the back, and the other half drive new Mercedes. The neighborhood elementary school is 92 percent white, as opposed to most other schools in the city that have a more balanced ratio.

We moved here because we got a really good deal on our house and thought if we could do some remodeling, we stood to make a nice profit with only a few years of work. Needless to say, the market took a downturn. We're now stuck here for a while.

I actually overheard a realtor at a local open house state that if they lowered the price of this house any more, then anybody could afford to live there. That ought to sum up my neighborhood.

Our guest is Rich Benjamin. He's the author of "Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America." If this is your story, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And you can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Let's get another caller on the line. This is Rock, and Rock's calling from Payson, Arizona.

ROCK (Caller): Hello, gentlemen.


Mr. BENJAMIN: Hi, Rock.

ROCK: I should probably give you a little bit of my background. I grew up in southern Idaho. We homesteaded a place back there, and I was there from 1955 to '63 in a little town of 3,000 people. We were on a farm, but it was all lily-white. Then I went to Orange County, taught there for 27 years, and now I'm in Payson, Arizona. I've been here 12 years.

CONAN: So from one to another.

ROCK: Yeah. As my principal told me many years ago in Buena Park High School, he said you and I are one of the few people in this world that have had the experience of growing up in a rural area and then coming into the big…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yeah, that's funny. I mean, it's almost as though he did the reverse migration, because in the 1990s we documents tens of thousands of people who left Southern California for Idaho.

ROCK: Yeah, yeah, exactly, and you go up there now, and we call it, you know, we just refer to places as being California-ized because Twin Falls, Idaho and Boise, Idaho now, I mean, Californians are just heavy, heavy there.

Mr. BENJAMIN: That's right.

CONAN: You sport with one person in Kurtilene(ph), Rich Benjamin, who said, you know, he really objected to diversity and said what he was complaining about wasn't racial. He didn't like those Californians.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BENJAMIN: He didn't like those Californians, and I was shocked because he was bragging to me how he slit a Californian's BMW tires with his jackknife, and indeed, some people who grew up in Idaho may not be able to afford to live in the communities they grew up in, and that has a lot to do with the influx of rich folk.

ROCK: Yeah, well, there are some places along the Snake River - we were in Southern Idaho - right now where you can still pick up a lovely, lovely home with riverfront acreage for around $400,000.

CONAN: Just a drop in the bucket.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Just a drop in the bucket.

ROCK: It's sort of like, well, up there now, they have the gangs, the graffiti and the boom boxes, but ironically here in Arizona, 90 miles from everything, we're 90 miles north of Flagstaff, south of Sedona, excuse me, north of Phoenix, south of Flagstaff and east of Sedona, we're 90 miles from everything, but we don't have boom boxes. We have no graffiti, but boy, we have drugs.


CONAN: Rock, good luck with that.

ROCK: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye, appreciate the phone call.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Thank you.

CONAN: While you were on this tour of white America, you confess that you started a love affair, Rich Benjamin.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes, I did, with golf.

CONAN: Golf.

Mr. BENJAMIN: I did not expect to realize how much I loved golf, and at first I was thinking, okay, golf is the seductive emblem of whitopia. I cannot understand these communities without playing golf because literally a lot of the communities are designed around golf in terms of golf homes and golf neighborhoods. So I took up golf, and it stuck.

CONAN: And you describe your many adventures on the golf course. You turned out to be, well, a fair to middling golfer.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Fair to middling golfer, although it's a tough nut in whitopia in the sense that there are a lot of great golfers. So in the context on New York City, I'm decent. In the context of whitopia, I'm horrible.

CONAN: It is central, as you say, to whitopian culture, the golf community also, that there is recreation available: boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, all that sort of thing.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Right. People call North Idaho, for example, a sportsman's paradise for hunting and fishing and boating and golfing.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line, Mike with us from Denver.

MIKE (Caller): Yeah, hi. I'm currently living in Stapleton, which is where the old airport used to be, and it's kind of a new, all new community development, and it's definitely a whitopian community.

It's bordered by black and Hispanic neighborhoods, predominately, but the people that live in Stapleton kind of refer to it as the bubble. They don't like to go outside of the bubble.

CONAN: They really call it the bubble?

MIKE: Yeah. I've heard that quite a few people call it that.

CONAN: And is it definitively marked? Is it a gated community?

MIKE: No, it's not gated at all. In fact, it's wide open, and curiously, there really was no, like, facilities, no grocery stores or anything in these communities until Stapleton was built. Now there's a grocery store that's right on the edge of it, and it's used by all the surrounding communities, and it's kind of the melting pot of the area, the grocery store, I would say. But other than that, it's a pretty white community.

CONAN: Hmm. Interesting, and it's growing quickly?

Mr. BENJAMIN: Oh yeah, it's - well, right now, you know, with the housing…

CONAN: Oh yeah, the housing problem, yeah.

Mr. BENJAMIN: But yeah, you know, everyone's like in their late 30s, early 40s, starting families, have their three, four, 5,000-square-foot house and, you know, that's their life.

CONAN: Okay. Good luck there, Mike.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MIKE: Thanks, I'm leaving. Bye.

CONAN: Okay, where are you going to go?

MIKE: I'm looking for a house right now. I'm shopping for a house closer to downtown Denver.

CONAN: Okay, thanks very much for the call, and good luck with that.

MIKE: Thanks.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go next to - we'll go to Kevin, Kevin with us from Cody, Wyoming.

KEVIN (Caller): Yeah, hey, I moved up here to the north a couple years ago, but it was more due to crime and population than anything else, but I definitely live in a white or a whitopia community, trust me.

CONAN: And Rich Benjamin, you describe a lot of people who said, you know, it was the gunfire at night that got them convinced to move.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Oh, absolutely. A lot of people who are concerned for crime will migrate to whitopias, and what I found in my long journey is that whitopia tends to attract people with young kids or people who are retiring because at those streams of one's lifetime, that's when you require security, emotional and literal, and so…

KEVIN: Yeah, but you know, you know, I hear what you're saying. I really miss the ethnic, different ethnic backgrounds, but I wasn't - it was about security, yes, and I have a young daughter now that's in seventh grade, and you know, we've talked about moving back to Tucson, and I wouldn't move back there for anything. And it has nothing to do with race or anything. It has to do with security, and I struggle with the ethnic beliefs of a lot of people around here.

CONAN: Okay, Kevin, thanks very much for the call.


CONAN: And he raises a question, Rich Benjamin, that I think you ask yourself throughout this book: How much of this is racially motivated?

Mr. BENJAMIN: Oftentimes it's not. People like Kevin will report very good reasons for wanting to leave old communities. That could be safety. That could be better housing. That could be more house for your dollar. It could be natural resources and amenities. And so on the other hand, people did say to my face, yes, I left because I didn't want ethnic conflict or to raise my kids with social tension.

So there's a mix of reasons why people are drawn to whitopia or why they left the community they did.

CONAN: Let's go next to Carrie, Carrie with us from Salem(ph) in Michigan.

CARRIE (Caller): Yeah, it's actually pronounced Celine(ph).

CONAN: Celine(ph), I apologize. Go ahead, please.

CARRIE: That's okay. I spent my life or my childhood growing up in a small dairy farming community in Wisconsin and absolutely killing to get out of there and move to a larger, more interesting urban area, and a lot of my friends have ended up living in New York City, places like that.

I ended up landing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and haven't really been able to afford to live there for the past eight years or so, even though I work there, and have ended up living in these smaller communities around here, including Dexter and Celine(ph), where I live now, and I feel like there is a racial element to living in these communities that are less diverse.

There are people here with resources, financial resources, to live in places like Ann Arbor that are more diverse and take advantages of the incredible opportunities there for their kids and the schools, and the schools in these places are probably insanely great, but it's - they're also incredibly white. There aren't necessarily sidewalks.

I mean, there's urban sprawl. There's all the things that I've started learning my education or not necessarily healthy environments for people to live in. And I am single, I'm 35, and I struggle with an incredible amount of ambivalence living in these places, like, I'm absolutely not contributing to the world in a way.

CONAN: Kerry, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like you voted with your feet and you feel like you voted for the wrong side.

KERRY: Well, I feel like I have been forced to live here because I really can't afford to live in Ann Arbor. I (unintelligible) kind of living out in the country and that kind of thing, and so I feel a little bit forced that I have to live in these places.

CONAN: Okay. Well, Kerry, good luck.

KERRY: Thanks.

CONAN: All right. Bye-bye. Here's an email we got from Luke(ph). My wife and I just moved back to Detroit after living in various parts of the country. We are white and have family here. All our family wanted us to move to Grosse Pointe, a very white, very affluent suburb just east of the city. We looked, and although the houses are cheap and it's a nice neighborhood, we decided we couldn't live there. It is too white. There are very few non-whites there, and it has a rich history of not including not only racial minorities but religious minorities, such as Jews, as well. We don't want our kids growing up in this kind of bubble. I can't imagine wanting to live there.

Honestly, another person who invokes the bubble word.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes. And that's why I was fascinated by your question. Did that gentleman's community have gates surrounding it? And some of those places do and some of them don't.

CONAN: And some of them are very complicated arrangements, but there's all kinds of code words. You went to look at houses in St. George, Utah, and there were all kinds of code words to tell you: by the way, this is a white community.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. And I was fascinated how communities are marketed as luxury communities, private communities, gated communities, secure communities. And they are all bubble. There's a preoccupation with security that often goes way overboard, way over what's called for.

CONAN: Given the character of the surrounding territory. Here's an email from Candice(ph). I grew up in an area of East Texas that was all white, but anything but a Utopia - trailer parks, rundown houses with junk in the yard, et cetera. How does that fit in?

Mr. BENJAMIN: Well, as I define whitopia, it has to have a social charm. So there are plenty of communities in America, like the one you described, Scranton, Pennsylvania, which are even shrinking or which feel like they're just rotted out, and so they don't qualify as whitopia.

CONAN: So they may be white, but not whitopia.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Right.

CONAN: Our guest is Rich Benjamin. His book, "Searching For Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America." And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, which comes to you from NPR News.

Nancy(ph) is on the line from Genoese in Idaho.

NANCY (Caller): Hi.


Mr. BENJAMIN: Hello.

NANCY: Yeah. My experience is that we moved first to Oregon and then to Idaho. My husband is from New Jersey and I'm from the Chicago suburbs. And we find ourselves now in a town of about 1,000 people. And we're the only practicing Jewish family in town, and that's been a really interesting experience.

CONAN: A little hard to form a minion.

NANCY: Well, there's a Jewish community in the larger area, and so we do have High Holiday services, Shabbat services once a month. But it's been a real challenge for me personally to educate my children the way I'd like them to be, although I did manage to have the name that spoke for all three of them now. But what's really been interesting is the non-malicious ignorance that I have encountered and my response to that ignorance.

CONAN: What do you mean by non-malicious ignorance?

NANCY: Well, for instance, one year, my daughter's fourth grade teacher scheduled the week's unit - we live in a (unintelligible) area - during Passover. And my response was just really angry. You know, I couldn't believe that somebody had done that.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

NANCY: And then I realized that she had no idea that it was Passover. And so both the unintentional scheduling of something like that and my really strong response to it before I realized that, oh, she just, you know, grew up in this area, she has no idea, she doesn't pay attention, it's not her fault (unintelligible)…

CONAN: Her experience is homogenous Christians and she had no experience with Jews.

NANCY: Right. And probably she would have been sensitive to it had I known about it or been able to talk to her about it. And then the other interesting experience that we've had is the bringing our kids to traveling, for instance, to New York City two summers ago, my son looking around and going, there are a lot of brown people here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NANCY: And he just - never, I mean, it just didn't occur to him that urban areas are mostly brown.

CONAN: Yeah. And I assume you're there for work?

NANCY: Well, no, I mean, we're here because this was an affordable place to buy a house. It has a really good small school district. And we wanted to raise our kids away from the city. And it's a tradeoff because, you know, we lose some things and we…

CONAN: Get some other things in return.

NANCY: Get some other things in return, no traffic. All of the teachers know all the kids in school. Everybody looks out for everybody else's kids. And -but we have no good ethnic restaurants and it's a little challenging to be a practicing Jew.

CONAN: I suspect it is. Nancy, thanks very much.

NANCY: Uh-huh. Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate it.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Thank you.

CONAN: And we'll get - try to get one more call in if we can. This is Ola(ph), I guess, in Ann Arbor. Am I pronouncing that right?

OLA (Caller): Yes, you are. I just wanted to tell you about the time my husband and I was looking to buy a house. My husband works for the University of Michigan Health System. And we live in a (unintelligible) but then we needed to move into a house. But our realtor kept sending us to areas where we have specifically told him we didn't want. So we wanted this particular part of town. And time after time, we would - it became obvious that - we're black. It became obvious he was trying to move us to a certain part of town that we didn't want to go. And we found homes that were for sale in the part of town we wanted, but he practically refused outright…


OLA: …to let us look at those houses. Eventually we had to change realtors.

CONAN: Rich Benjamin tells a story in his book about going out with an African-American realtor in St. George, Utah, and showing up to look at some of these house there when he was pretending to be a buyer and people assuming that the realtor had just brought a relative.


OLA: That doesn't surprise me at all. It doesn't surprise me. Although, it turns out the neighborhood is fantastic and we haven't had a single problem, everybody wonderful, really. But it seemed like he was the one who wanted to, I don't know, change things. I don't know what his problem was. But it was so obvious to us we just have to change realtors eventually.

CONAN: Ola, thanks very much for the call and take care of those kids, will you?

OLA: Thank you.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Thank you.

CONAN: All right. And Rich Benjamin, thank you for your time today. Appreciate it.

Mr. BENJAMIN: Well, thank you, Neal. Glad to be here.

CONAN: Rich Benjamin's book is "Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America." Coming up, the great health care debate of 1774, why an angry group burned down the local hospital in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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