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

4.66  ·  Rating details ·  10,738 ratings  ·  1,780 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: arcs
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
Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤
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
May 13, 2022 rated it really liked it
The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee is a 2021 One World publication.

This is one of those books I think everyone should read. Sadly, though, it will probably only land in front of those who are the most receptive to hearing this message. That said, even if you have already had an idea, even without reading this book, the toll of racism in our society, I urge you to read this book. It is packed with example after example, with proof and research to back it up, how racism affects everyone.

McGhee bega

’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.
Dec 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
"We are so much more when the "we" in 'We the People' is not some of us, but all of us. We are greater than, and greater for, the sum of us".

This thought-provoking work should be considered the companion book to Isabelle Wilkerson's Caste. Both authors do an excellent job of relating racial problems but from different perspectives. There is little redundancy. Heather McGhee is an economist, an economist who believes racism and white supremacy were "created by public policy and public policy shou
Traci Thomas
Dec 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is major. The book aims to show that racism (and more specifically white supremacy) are why we can’t have nice things as a country. McGhee breaks down the systemic oppression in things like public education, student loans, environment justice and shows that the system is designed on a zero sum basis which hurts Black and brown people but actually hurts all Americans. It’s a pretty powerful book and the writing is top notch.
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
Brian Griffith
I’ve read lots of books on history and social issues, but I generally felt they were about “other people.” This one was about me. This one clarified the realities I’ve lived but never understood. How come the public swimming pool I played in as a child was closed down, buried, and left as an abandoned lot? How, in a free market, could it happen that almost everybody on my side of town (south Corpus Christi) was White, and the Blacks and Latinos were almost all residing in “their” sides of town? ...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 ha
Feb 16, 2022 rated it really liked it
An excellent, well-researched and readable book that approaches racism from an economic and political perspective. It is a hopeful book - McGhee discusses how the US could be more than just the sum of its various parts. As GR friend Barbara says, this would be an excellent companion book to Wilkerson's Caste.

"We must challenge ourselves to live our lives in solidarity across color, origin and class; we must demand changes to the rules in order to disrupt the very notion that those who have more
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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!
2 stars (= “okay”). There are some good points here, but overall I found this book disappointing.

I was hoping that this would be a book that shows how racism harms everyone, including white people. A book that demonstrates how our entire country benefits when every segment of our society is given the chance to pursue the American dream. That if we could remove the barriers to success that impede those who have historically struggled the most, then we would all win — not just those who would see
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
Lorilin || thegoodbug
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, business, politics
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
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 to the other one and drove around and here's what they
Mar 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"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
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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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