Author, Essayist & Adventurer
Dr. Rich Benjamin sharply observes modern society and politics. His cultural and political analysis appear regularly in public debate, including in The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, NPR, PBS, MSNBC, and CNN. He is the author of Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America, selected as an Editor’s Choice by Booklist and The American Library Association (2009). Read More >
TED: My Road Trip Though the Whitest Towns in America
We Are Citizens
Heading halfway into the Trump administration, what can we expect for social healing in a changing, polarized America? Rich addresses social change in the US, helping his audience navigate immediate political developments and long-term social trends. His talk is perfect for corporations and nonprofit organizations seeking to understand and address our pressing conflicts, especially between a traditional, more socially-conservative America versus a younger, emergent, more racially diverse, both very politically on edge. Rich offers the audience real-time, original insight into today’s conflicts over race, class, income inequality, gender, LGBT rights, and more. Leaving behind speculation or tired red-state, blue-state clichés, he shows the future of social relations in an increasingly multicultural, complex nation. In this compelling talk, Benjamin shows how America can reverse its polarization with dialogue—and action.
As America becomes more and more multicultural, Rich noticed a phenomenon: Some communities were actually getting less diverse. So he got out a map, found the whitest towns in the USA -- and moved in. In this funny, honest, human talk, Rich shares what he learned as a black man in “Whitopia.” And then he offers practical lessons on what “Whitopia” can teach the audience about their own communities, particularly concerning fear, hope, and isolation, in all their guises.
A prediction that makes headlines across the United States is fast becoming reality: By 2042 white people will no longer be the American majority. Rich has travelled 27,000 miles and lived two years in America’s whitest communities. From this experience, he offers the audience a unique look into "demographobia"—the fear of changing demographics. The browning of America now reaches a critical inflection point, one which shapes our politics, society, and markets. What will it mean to be "American," when whites are no longer the numeric majority, nor even the "mainstream?" How can communities and businesses prosper in a truly pluralist age? How can the spirit of entrepreneurship spark a new generation of inclusive, savvy business leaders and hopeful citizens? An adventurer and storyteller, Rich shares a positive vision of how the audience can go out and change the world as America becomes browner and more female.
What is your comfort zone at work? In your community? How does that comfort zone inspire and cage you? With audience input, Rich peeks behind a person’s multiple comfort zones. He helps audiences to really understand their comfort zones—and inspires them to get beyond their “safe spaces” for better personal and collective gains, especially as our media and real-time worlds get more segregated and complex. He shares an original vision of shattering comfort zones in an era when America is re-segregating by income and race.
The world is experiencing a moment of disruption—demographic, political, economic, work-force, social, and technological. Rich’s talk reveals the role of disruption in un-nerving some Americans. Rich looks into the darker sides of disruption: layoffs, work-place reorganization, vigilantism, political extremism, and the rise of digital media’s “intensity machine”, including the alt-right. He denounces disruption as a platform for fear and bias. And then he inspires people and institutions with strategies to withstand—and thrive in—disruption, amidst all its forms.
Why are some positive ideas leaping ahead while others falter? Why are some people and endeavors blossoming in uncertain times and a crowded, cynical environment? Disruption is more than a harbinger of fear and intolerance. Disruptive ideas and actions are positively galvanizing our economy and democracy. Using bold examples from business, activism, pop culture, and his own research travels, Rich reveals original lessons on how audiences can channel disruption to achieve positive change—on campus, in politics, in communities, in companies, and beyond. From the new success of Lego to #MeToo to #NeverAgain, Benjamin shares unique insight on our open-source, participatory, peer-driven disruptive future. How do we make the world a better place?
Nine churchgoers slain in Charleston. Muslims declared by the president and his supporters as unfit for our soil. Ongoing mass incarceration of nonwhites. Aggressive, record deportations of brown-skinned immigrants. Hundreds of thousands in the streets of Ferguson, New York City, Baltimore, and elsewhere to protest the deaths of young black men at the hands of urban police. Calculated legal assaults on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and state legislative attempts to suppress the black vote. Ongoing white protests to preserve the more than 1,000 Confederate monuments in 31 States, including states not even involved in the Confederacy or the Civil War. Recent years have festered more racial grieving than any other period since Dr. King was assassinated fifty years ago in 1968. Having reflected on MLK’s legacy for The New Yorker and on NPR, Rich takes the audience through the impressive gains and backward steps America has made toward King’s vision of a “a more beloved community.” From campus activism to social trends to the unfolding Trump administration, Rich examines and inspires toward decades of civil rights movement and Dr. King.
“Rich Benjamin’s visit was a huge hit. Benjamin gave a terrific talk. He has a knack for raising very sensitive issues in a way that gets beyond tired polarities but that doesn't muffle the key issues of justice and the common good. Plus, he's a great story-teller and he's got a great story to tell.”
“Rich Benjamin gave a thought-provoking and compelling presentation of his odyssey through 'Whitopia.' Benjamin’s visit was one of the best-attended and highly regarded talks of the academic year.”
“Rich Benjamin did a phenomenal job. I could not have imagined a better summation of our week. Participants said his talk was one of the highlights. One participant wrote me: ‘I am so thankful that Facing History introduced us to Rich Benjamin, his book, and his research. This was eye opening for me personally and also will become an important element of my teaching.’”
“Rich Benjamin offered a trenchant and compelling exploration of contemporary white flight. Benjamin facilitated a lively and meaningful discussion on the nuances of unconscious racism that continue to shape the American landscape. The audience responded with genuine and palpable appreciation.”
“Dr. Benjamin’s speech was inspirational. He seamlessly tied his thought-provoking work to the everyday lives of our students, and reminded them to live courageously in the face of adversity. His encouraging and open remarks reinforced our students’ commitment to public service and affecting change.”