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Dr. Rich  Benjamin

Dr. Rich Benjamin

Author, Essayist & Adventurer

Biography

Dr. Rich Benjamin sharply observes modern society and politics. His cultural and political analysis appear regularly in public debate, including in The New York TimesThe GuardianThe New YorkerThe 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 >

Born in New York City, Rich grew up in far-flung places (in the US and abroad).   He devoured English and political science at Wesleyan University (BA) and Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University (PhD).

Rich was recently a Fellow in the literary arts at the Bellagio Center (Italia), Rockefeller Foundation. He sits on the Board of Trustees of the Authors Guild, the national union of writers that has been protecting authors’ rights and free speech since 1912. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TED: My Road Trip Though the Whitest Towns in America

Whitopia

Denounce Hate

Speech Topics

“Make America Great Again”— Or Resist

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.

WHITOPIA: My Road Trip Through America’s Whitest Towns

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.

The Color of Tomorrow: Success Now & The Future

The cute office park where you visited the family doctor as a child is now a strip mall with a dingy taqueria and Spanish signs. 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.

Get Over It: “Comfort Zones” and “Safe Spaces”

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.

“Disruption”: Where Do We Go From Here

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.

Disruption: How Battles for Social Empowerment Are Waged

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?

King & “The More Perfect Union”

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.

Connect with Dr. Rich Benjamin