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The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  68 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - One of today's most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone--not just for people of color.

"This is the book I've been waiting for."--Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antira
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published February 16th 2021 by One World
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  • The Sum of Us by Heather  McGhee
    The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

    Release date: Feb 16, 2021
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    Start your review of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together
    Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: nonfiction, netgalley
    The Sum of Us tackles the concept of racial zero sum - why so many whites believe that bettering the lives of racial minorities comes at their expense. In truth, it’s a concept usually put forth by the upper echelon “to escape accountability for the redistribution of wealth upward”.
    McGee takes us back even before the founding of the country to explain how and why this theory came to be. She walks us through history giving us example after example of whites screwing themselves over rather than h
    Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
    In the January/February 2009 issue of The Atlantic, the writer Hua Hsu wrote an article titled “The End of White America?”. It was displayed on the cover of the magazine beside a large picture of then-President Barack Obama. I don’t remember much about the article but I do remember it made the argument that America was changing into a majority-minority nation in just a few decades. For many White Americans, that is a fearful prospect. Heather McGhee, former president of the think tank Demos, sta ...more

    ’The white citizens burned the edifice of their own government rather than submit to a multiracial democracy.'

    The above quote references an election in 1872, but is, perhaps, more relevant today.

    I began reading this on January 8th, two days after the attack on the Capitol, made for difficulty concentrating. I am pretty sure it took me as long to read this as it did to read Lonesome Dove, despite it being less than 450 pages - the essays comprise 61% of the book, the remainder including Acknowle
    Kimba Tichenor
    A thought-provoking read that will make you rethink everything that you thought you knew about racism.

    Heather McGhee, political commentator and former President of Demos (a progressive think tank) has written a book with a deceptively simple premise: Racism costs everyone. The harm that racism does society, while disproportionately affecting people of color, also harms working- and middle-class white people. Sadly, too many white Americans have fallen for the lie propagated by wealthy white elit
    Dawn Michelle
    This is a book that will quickly become a "must-read" book as it is filled with some amazing information about the "zero-sum" phenomenon and takes a deep look at why white people continue to sabotage themselves just to make [what they deem] life harder for those who don't share the same skin color as them [Black people, Brown people, Asians, Immigrants etc]. This book is filled with story after story of the history of the "zero-sum" issues and how it has and continues to hurt everyone, not just ...more
    Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    I predict this will be considered an Important or Necessary Read of 2021. It is EXCELLENT and an easily accessible read. The Sum of Us lays out why life is not a zero-sum game, and therefore racism must be dismantled once and for all. And why America will be stronger when we work together for the Solidarity Dividend - diversity makes us stronger.

    Heather McGhee's specialty is the American economy--and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising st
    Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: arcs, netgalley
    "The Sum of Us" by Heather McGhee is a very important book that should be read by all Americans. It is one of the most powerful and insightful books I have read in a very long time. Filled with information, yet easy to read, "The Sum of Us" delves into why so many Americans believe that we live in a zero sum society-that if life improves for people of color, it can only be at the expense of white people. It also explores the hidden effects of racism on everyone, not just on people of color, when ...more
    Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Author Heather McGhee wants us to know that racist policies don't benefit anyone. That's why she wrote The Sum of Us. I downloaded it from Net Galley. This book covers a variety of topics and provides historical perspective on each one. I considered it thorough and insightful.

    McGhee argues that when racist whites are opposed to public services, it's not because they want smaller government. It's because of their racism. They don't want blacks to benefit.

    McGhee concludes that the strength of the
    Michael Perkins
    Feb 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
    The author's thesis is: “It is progressive economic conventional wisdom that racism accelerates inequality for communities of color, but what if racism is actually driving inequality for everyone?”

    The author proceeds to prove her case with stats and many stories. I was familiar with much of the material already from other books.

    The book linked below, which came out two years ago, has the same thesis, but is 100 pages shorter. It might be better to start with this one.
    Susie Dumond
    Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    In this book, political and economic researcher Heather McGhee explores how racism is at the root of most of America’s economic, infrastructural, and other public policy problems. Her writing criticizes the paradigm that progress for some comes at the expense of others, instead arguing that racism has a cost for everyone, not just people of color.

    This is a truly genius book in so many ways, from how McGhee makes the political personal to how she chooses to categorize intertwining issues. But the
    Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: 2021-reviews

    The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee is required reading for anyone building an anti-racism reading list. McGhee, not only points out the problems and their roots, she gives us examples of people working to improve the nation towards its goal of freedom and equality for all. Highly Recommended.

    Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions in this review are mine and mine alone.

    Review: The Sum of Us

    Anya Leonard
    Jan 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    An interesting and in-depth precise look at how the disenfranchisement of one section of the population tends to disenfranchise us all. McGhee uses a fine tooth comb to go through various issues - voter suppression, bank lending, credit, and more and give us an idea about how though the white population may not be the target of many of these practices that cause other parts of our world strife, it causes us to all lose out on things. This is not to say we suffer as much as anyone else does, by f ...more
    Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
    I am a long time admirer and follower of Heather McGhee and her work at Demos. I regularly interact with Demos' work, and was not surprised by McGhee's elevated public persona over the past five or so years. She is a singular voice on inclusive democracy, and has grown to become one of our best policy-minded speakers focused on racial justice.

    When Demos announced that McGhee would be moving on from her role as a day-to-day executive at the organization to move into a space more aligned with her
    Lawrence Grandpre
    Feb 25, 2021 rated it liked it
    A good attempt to point out some of the ways the seemingly race-neutral logic of austerity has deeply racialized undertones. Some of the arguments around white folks assuming they are hurting black people but really are hurting themselves as well are compelling, especially the "spillover effects" of environmental racism hurting white communities' health.

    The text however is hindered by a lack of cohesion in its analysis and some glaring omissions. While austerity is critiqued, the text blames th
    Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: finance, race, politics
    It was wild reading this book and following the climate catastrophe unfold in Texas. It’s almost like it was published for this exact moment. While it’s understandable that Texas wouldn’t be accustomed to a snowfall and deep freeze, it’s not understandable, at least in the abstract, that its power grid wouldn’t be able to accommodate.

    But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Conservative Texas politicians immediately went on the offensive. Former Governor and energy secretary Rick Perry said
    Jessica (justagirlwithabook)
    The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee takes an up-close and personal look at the issue of racism, its origins, its growth, and its twisted ability to continue to reach through to the present, infiltrating and poisoning every aspect of life, especially as it relates to the economics of the American system.

    When we say that racism is systemic, this book puts any second thoughts to rest. As a white woman, I have found myself questioning the rea
    Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
    “Alabama: $3,910; Florida: $6,733; Georgia: $7,602; Mississippi: $5,647; Texas: $3,692—these are the paltry annual amounts that a parent in a southern state must earn less than in order to qualify for Medicaid in 2020; adults without children are usually ineligible. When the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, it expanded qualification for Medicaid to 138 percent of the poverty level for all adults (about $30,000 for a family of three in 2020) and equalized eligibility rules across all states. B ...more
    A truly fantastic and important book. My favorite aspect is that although I’ve read a lot of the key books that she refers to, it doesn’t feel like I’m reading something repetitive. Her thesis and integration of the information elevates what I already knew to a whole new level. I understand the material in a whole new and critical way.

    OMG this book is so good and so important. They way she consolidates and elevates so much history and recent research into a concept that feels undeniable is rema
    "We've found the enemy, and it's not each other."

    I've always wondered why people vote against their self interests. You hear this every election year to the point it's become a cliché. After a while you realize the media is just dancing around what they don't want to say. Thankfully, Heather McGhee doesn't have a corporation to protect and points to racial injustice as the center of it all. McGhee traces this idea from slavery to Jim Crow to Covid in ten chapters that will have you screaming mad
    The Sum Of US by Heather McGhee is truly one of the best books I have read on racism and social justice in America. McGhee does a phenomenal job synthesizing how history, public policies, and perspectives have fallen short for all of us. The core thesis is that the Zero Sum assumption has harmed all of us and that we are in fact much stronger when we work together for policies that benefit the public. Zero Sum assumes that resources/jobs/money are limited, so if another group gets some, you will ...more
    Elizabeth Giordano
    Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
    When I got the opportunity to read The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee through NetGalley and One World publishing, I did not know what to expect. Heather McGhee is a lawyer and former leader of the inequality-focused think tank, Demos, an organization that advocates for equality and justice. The author combines past and current issues in the United States with research and interviews from people living their lives amid these disparities and ...more
    Randy A.
    Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
    The Sum of Us is very good. It will deservingly spark great conversations, coalition building, arguments for policy change, and the change itself. I didn't love the book's tone/organization, but that may be personal.

    The book is out today and I thank Net Galley for early access and the chance to read and review. I jumped at the chance to read early both because (1) I am interested in racial injustice and policy avenues to a more equitable future and (2) every time Heather McGhee appears on televi
    Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    Thank you, NetGalley, for the opportunity to read this important book.

    I knew racism had a cost; a cost of lives, a cost of friendships, a cost of democracy. But other than slavery, I never thought about the economic cost in present day and why we can't have nice things.

    I learned so much from Heather McGhee. I'm grateful to own the book so I could highlight the heck out of it. A quote I believe summarizes the book so well:
    "I sensed that the core idea that's so resonant with many white Americans
    Alicia N.
    Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: netgalley
    The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee is a must read book for all Americans. I first saw Heather McGee on a political talk show. I was struck not only by her intelligence and well-reasoned arguments, but her kindness and empathy. I have followed her ever since, and her compassion and strength truly inspire me. She writes early on in this book that she is an optimist, and after seeing what she has over the course of her work at Demos and throu ...more
    Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: dei, netgalley
    This is a book I suggest you put at the top of your Racism Education reading list! Ms. McGhee takes a solid look at what racism is costing every single American every single day in health, wealth, education, etc, etc, etc. For example: this book doesn't have the basic math spelled out like Mr. Metzl did in his Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland, but she still strongly supports her points on how the fear of "immigrants and welfare freeloaders" ...more
    Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee kind of knocked my socks off! This is not a quick read, but a take your time, dig deep and listen type of read. There is so much information in this book that I would not advise anyone to try and consume it in one sitting - I took my time, and let each chapter resonate properly before moving on to the next.
    Heather McGhee uses her experience as an expert in economy and law in this deep and personal research journey into the foundations and continuation of the raci
    Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    This was absolutely phenomenal. While this definitely took me a while to read, it was worth it to take the time to dig into the numerous topics McGhee discusses here including the rising costs of higher education, the affordable housing crisis, the defunding of public K-12 education, and pollution and climate change. Interweaving McGhee's personal experiences and projects with Demos, a progressive economic think tank; interviews with Americans from across the country and from all walks-of-life; ...more
    Hannah Krueger
    Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    NetGalley was kind enough to pass me this book as part of a random email campaign back in December, and I finally (fittingly) got to it this month. This feels like it’s going to be a new classic, in terms of the broad and thorough look at how conservatives and racists use the idea of a zero sum game to divide America and how that actively hurts us as a nation on a macro level, as well as on the individual community level. The swimming pool chapter alone will stick with people for a very long tim ...more
    Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: politics, business, arc
    This book. Wow. THE SUM OF US.

    It took me a bit to get through it, because it was so descriptive, well-researched, and, frankly, depressing. Heather McGhee covers topics like housing, segregation, labor unions, schools, and healthcare to show how white people have bought into a zero-sum mindset (the idea that if you get more than you used to get, it means I must be getting less) and have actually hurt THEMSELVES thinking this way. (Of course this mindset hurts black and brown people most.)

    Some ta
    Audrey Farley
    Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
    A very important book, which I will be incorporating in my Amer. history classes. McGhee shows how the federal government has historically been an activist one, investing in the (white) middle class from the days of the Homestead Acts to New Deal and beyond. Over the centuries, the majority of whites supported robust federal programs. It was only when the Civil Rights Act was looming that the public decided it was best to dismantle everything after all. The image of cheats and "welfare queens" b ...more
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