Politics. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER â?˘ LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD â?˘ One of todayâ??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 everyoneâ??not just for people of color. WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD â?˘ ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Time, The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ms. magazine, BookRiot, Library Journal â??This is the book Iâ??ve been waiting for.â?ťâ??Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist Look for the authorâ??s new podcast, The Sum of Us, based on this book! Heather McGheeâ??s specialty is the American economyâ??and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out? McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigmâ??the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this countryâ??from parks and pools to functioning schoolsâ??have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the worldâ??s advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare. But in unlikely places of worship and work, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: the benefits we gain when people come together across race to accomplish what we simply canâ??t do on our own. The Sum of Us is not only a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here but also a heartfelt message, delivered with startling empathy, from a black woman to a multiracial America. It leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.
Thus, McGhee argues, progressive politics should focus on rejecting the zero-sum framing which is right now the automatic way in which many whites perceive progressive policies, even ones presented in race-neutral terms. For example, she emphasizes the benefits of diversity, not for white people but for decisionmaking, citing research suggesting that groups with less demographic similarity produce better solutions and do better at discovering the different information held by different members. Itâ€™s more cognitive effort, which means itâ€™s less comfortable even without racism, but it works better.
McGhee runs down the racist, anti-Black roots of many of the major societal problems in America today, examining at the same time the ways in which these
McGhee uses as her operating metaphor (as per the book's cover art) the history of public swimming pools. During the middle part of the 20th century, communities across the country, including across the South, had built public swimming pools. They were symbols in many cases of civic pride, gathering places for often thousands of people. However, when the law mandated that these pools be integrated, community after community closed the facilities, often filling the pools in and covering them over, rather than comply with that new law. So not only were Blacks kept out, but tens of thousands of white people lost their public swimming pools as well.
The book examines the housing/mortgage crisis, environmental racism, redlining, voting rights, disengenuous "color blindness" and several more issues, which all come under McGhee's microscope to convincing effect. There is also a chapter on the psychic toll that racism takes on whites called "The Hidden Wound," the title taken from Wendell Berry's 1968 book of the same name.
The book's final chapter, though, is titled "The Solidarity Dividend," and outlines several successful grass roots, cross-ethnic efforts currently underway at the grass roots level both in individual communities and across the country. McGhee spent a lot of time crossing the country and investigating her thesis and she has a career's worth of experience in policy advocating and organizing to draw on, as well.
Finally, the book is clearly and engagingly written, and does not come across as a polemic. McGhee seems to me to be writing out of sorrow and, often, frustration, but also out of love and hope for the future. She lays out the problems and conditions of our times exceedingly well, and suggests what could be a doable roadmap for the future.
This is one of those books I read everyone would 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
McGhee began this journey after overhearing a conversation which propelled her to research racism in the world of finance. Her findings expose raw truths, but sadly, I wasnâ€™t surprised by her findings.
The study on hospital closures is one I can personally attest to.
It puts everyone at risk- no matter what your income, social status, or race might be. In fact, the number of hospital closures in my state is at a crisis point and is a real issue in my neck of the woods.
People who allow racism to cloud their thinking tend to back policies that work against their own best interest, apparently unable to see how they are shooting themselves in the foot. We are talking about basic, reasonable things like education, safe work environments, health care, good neighborhoods and home ownership.
But the author doesnâ€™t just expose the problems- she also offers solutions and hope. Instead of what helps you, hurts me- it is more like what helps you, also helps me- we all benefit from the right policies.
Though the task ahead looks and feels overwhelming, and the author doesnâ€™t sugarcoat that in the slightest, the reader is nevertheless inspired to continue fighting the good fight.
Overall, though it may sound redundant, this is a book I wish everyone would read with an open, receptive frame of mind. Although the presentation can occasionally be a wee bit dry- the book is easy to read and digest, is well organized and researched, and is important, informative, and makes a whole lot of sense.
*Note: The text takes up only a little over half of the digital book- with the other half dedicated to notes-so just FYI- the book isnâ€™t as long as it appears.
Not the authorâ€™s fault, but I was disappointed after reading the book (on Kindle) to discover that there were extensive end notes that arenâ€™t linked to from the main text, so I never had the