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

4.68  ·  Rating details ·  5,829 ratings  ·  1,053 reviews
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 student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published February 16th 2021 by One World
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Joanna I agree - the audio version was terrific. Am reading a lot of recent non-fiction books by Black Authors via audio book. It’s great to hear their voice…moreI agree - the audio version was terrific. Am reading a lot of recent non-fiction books by Black Authors via audio book. It’s great to hear their voices and intonation and to take their words into my body through my ears. I am a white woman seeking to better understand the white supremacist culture into which I was born, and then take action to dismantle the systems that uphold it.(less)

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Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, nonfiction
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
Shelves: netgalley
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
Apr 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenna by: Kathy
"The zero sum is a story sold by wealthy interests for their own profit, and its persistence requires people desperate enough to buy it."

It's mind-boggling that many poor white people vote for a party that consistently works against their best interests. A party that works for millionaires and billionaires and corporations, lowering their taxes and paying for it by cutting programs that benefit everyone. 

What does it take to get someone to support politicians and policies that harm them? They do

’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
Elyse  Walters
Audiobook read by the author Heather McGhee
….11 hours and 8 minutes

Packed with thoughts-facts-wisdom-and historical details about how racism is the root problem — the core dysfunction — of our democracy, financial crisis, student debts, the housing crisis, anti-government- and distrust…..
…..that racism is driving ‘all’ inequality for ‘all’ people.

American economy has been Heather’s field of study - her specialty since early adulthood.
The stories she includes - real stories - are eye-opening.
When I returned to the States in early 2008 after living in New Zealand, I was keenly aware of the impending financial disaster. The collapsing housing market had already hit the U.K., and by cultural, political, and economic extension, Australia and New Zealand, months before the first unsettling frissons were felt in the States. I became fascinated with the crisis and read every article and listened to every interview and syndicated show my liberal media mainstays like the NY Times and NPR off ...more
Gosh, I learned so much from this book.

Everyone--no matter your race, creed, religion--loses when we allow prejudice to overtake us.
Thank you, McGhee, for explaining how historical policies and legislation have led to us to a place where we don't even understand what is helping and hurting us anymore.

This book was challenging, difficult at times to read, but oh so important.

I would highly encourage you to give it a read or listen.
La Crosse County Library
4.5 stars out of 5 stars

"The narrative that white people should see the well-being of people of color as a threat to their own is one of the most powerful subterranean stories in America. Until we destroy the idea, opponents of progress can always unearth it and use it to block any collective action that benefits us all."--The Sum of Us, pg. 15

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (2021) features a comprehensive look at how we're all harmed by racism. Larg
When I received this widget back in December I hadn't heard of Heather McGhee. Then I saw the accolades for this book from Ibram X. Kendi, Eddie Glaude and Alicia Garza. I took time to pull up her TED Talk. Instantly I was captivated by her message. She just wasn't conveying an idea but she had brought the receipts.

Every point made in The Sum of Us was founded in fact with numbers and human stories. It was obvious that The Sum of Us is the result of an incredible amount of research (See Notes
May 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book somewhat reluctantly. It was assigned for my job's racial equity and inclusion working group book club. I don't take book recommendations from just anyone, so I was reasonably skeptical when one of my white coworkers raved about the book and suggested it as our next read. But I decided to give it a chance if nothing else to be an informed participant during the book club discussion. (Evidently, I must love arguing with people of no color about racism in America.) I wasn't f ...more
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.
Wick Welker
We're all in this together.

McGhee achieves a beautiful summary of the racial ails of American culture, economy and politics with The Sum of Us. The main thrust of this work is that the racial history, racial resentment and political racecraft wielded by the powerful have a monolithic impact: all people of all colors are harmed. Of course, people of color are disproportionately harmed, but white people largely get swept up in the social harm of destroying social programs and fostering the false i
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
Bruce Katz
An extraordinary work, as I expected. I can think of no one I'd rather meet than Ms McGhee. (It's not impossible: Apparently her mother doesn't live very far away from me... OK, a guy can dream, right?) She's extremely smart, knowledgeable, generous, and has a gift for presenting information in an accessible and ingratiating way. I would have really enjoyed an opportunity to ask her questions about some of what she says.

Her argument is a compelling one. And original in its approach. America has
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
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
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
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, politics, business
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
Apr 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“White fear can exist only in a world turned upside down.”
~~Abraham Lateiner

What a stunning book by author Heather McGhee.
“America has lied to her white children for centuries, offering them songs of freedom instead of the liberation of truth.”

McGhee uses sociological data, historical anecdotes, and interviews to paint a picture of the zero sum narrative and its through line through all sectors of American life.
Succinctly put: the zero sum story tells us that if people of color have equitabl
Maureen Grigsby
Jun 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a 5 star book. This book brilliantly explains so much of our shared history, in ways that opened my eyes to new interpretations. McGhee’s fundamental premise is that we ALL get farther ahead and ALL benefit by supporting each other. And that shows me that white support of black businesses is something we can all do. There are at least two black owned bookstores in Kansas City, which I am interested in supporting. Anyway, this was an excellent book!
Jun 14, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main message is important: racism is manufactured by those in power to divide the 99% against each other so those on top can get away with murder and laugh all the way to the bank. I saw something recently where someone called this "wealth supremacy."

Unfortunately, I don't like this style of writing where the author takes on a gigantic topic by telling us how she went to Toledo to talk to this person and then she went to Atlanta to talk the other one and drove around and here's what they saw
Mar 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I heard about this on the Slate Political Gabfest and promptly ordered it because the author made it sound both important and interesting. It is a very readable, interesting, and well-supported account of the ways that racism hurts everyone in the US (even white people! yes!) and the ways in which government projects that close the equity gap and work to provide resources to everyone can keep us from falling into an "us-versus-them" mentality that corporate America has relied on to put profits a ...more
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
Apr 17, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(Disclaimer: I skipped some chapters.)

This author dives into plenty in this lengthy dissertation but leaves a gaping, underlining real question of "why?" that beckons of the need for a deeper exploration into the Republican perspective.

Presenting her research as a singular case to prove her viewpoints, I had more questions go unanswered than answered. I appreciated the valid points she made and all that I learned. Much of what she presents speaks volumes. I'm just not sure if the author realize
Mar 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorite-books
Gobsmacked. Heather McGhee has given us all such a gift: the gift of a roadmap to how all of us can prosper together. No matter what your political beliefs, if you truly wonder how we can turn our nation around you simply must read this book.

Another book that should be required reading in college. And if your book club reads non-fiction go ahead and put THE SUM OF US on the schedule.
Mar 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks, 2021-read
"According to authoritative American National Election Studies (ANES) survey, 65% of white people in 1956 believed the government ought to guarantee a job to anyone who wanted one, and to provide a minimum standard of living in the country. White support cratered for these ideas between 1960-1964 however, from nearly 70% to 35% and has stayed low ever since. The overwhelming majority of Black Americans had remained enthusiastic about this idea over 50 years of survey data."

Hmm. What was it that
Leslie Ann
Apr 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Ibram X. Kendi speaks for me in calling The Sum of Us "the book I've been waiting for." McGhee thoroughly explains how racism and a zero-sum economic model have prevented whites and BIPOCs in the U.S. from prospering as a society, with features like a livable wage, universal healthcare, and clean air. Even better, she details examples of what can be achieved by multiracial coalitions (e.g., clean-energy jobs in Chevron-polluted Richmond, CA; rejuvenation of the small town of Lewiston, ME), and o ...more
Aug 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and illuminating. McGhee's deep dive into how racism negatively affects all Americans (apart from the 1%, of course, who seem impervious to everything) is well researched, clearly laid out, and convincingly argued. McGhee has solid data chops to support her argument, too, having spent years researching the vagaries of the US economy. As with Ava DuVernay's Thirteenth, there were elements of this story I had known but quite a lot I hadn't, and the connections McGhee draws are both enl ...more
So. Freaken. Good. Highly recommend. I’m guilting of thinking of racism as a problem that doesn’t negatively effect white people, but all the economic info and data about how the effects of systemic racism and historical exclusion of people of color has also had a negative impact on white people was fascinating, heartbreaking, maddening, and honestly a little exhilarating. Because it feels like an ‘aha moment’ of truth that we all succeed when things are equitable and diverse, and when people ar ...more
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Heather Charisse McGhee is an American political commentator and strategist. She is a former president and currently a distinguished senior fellow of Demos, a non-profit progressive U.S. think tank. McGhee is a regular contributor to NBC News and frequently appears as a guest and panelist on Meet the Press, All In with Chris Hayes, and Real Time with Bill Maher.

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Believe it or not, we're halfway through 2021! As is our tradition, this is the time when the Goodreads editorial team burrows into our data to...
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“Wanting someone to stand for the national anthem rather than stand up for justice means loving the symbol more than what it symbolizes.” 6 likes
“The United States of America has had the world’s largest economy for most of our history, with enough money to feed and educate all our children, build world-leading infrastructure, and generally ensure a high standard of living for everyone. But we don’t. When it comes to per capita government spending, the United States is near the bottom of the list of industrialized countries, below Latvia and Estonia. Our roads, bridges, and water systems get a D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers. With the exception of about forty years from the New Deal to the 1970s, the United States has had a weaker commitment to public goods, and to the public good, than every country that possesses anywhere near our wealth.” 5 likes
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