NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD • 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.
WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Time, The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ms. magazine, BookRiot, Library Journal • LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL • “This is the book I’ve been waiting for.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist
Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—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 paradigm—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 country—from parks and pools to functioning schools—have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world’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 can’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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Racism not only robs people of their dignity; it takes money out of everyone’s pockets. Economist Heather McGhee’s fascinating audiobook tallies racism’s costs, and her findings are rattling. White people can, often unconsciously, be so resistant to the idea of improving the lives of people of color that they’ll even oppose changes that they themselves would benefit from. McGhee makes abstract economic concepts feel real and personal—from the closing of public pools in the 1960s because communities didn’t want to integrate them to the vociferous opposition to the Affordable Care Act today. Her dollars-and-cents approach paints a stark picture of how unfair systems affect everyone, like how discriminatory housing and lending practices in majority-Black neighborhoods also reduce real-estate values, emergency services, and the quality of public schools in surrounding areas. We appreciated how The Sum of Us closes on a note of hope, as McGhee persuasively lays out how demographic changes can help bring us together to create a better country for everyone.
This entire book is amazing, I especially enjoyed the chapters on Housing in America, and how there’s so many differences between Whites and minorities, not so much as people, but through Lending institutions. I was shocked to learn the big differences when it comes to buying homes as Blacks vs Whites. I now have a better understanding when it comes to buying homes as a Black American though.
WoW Wow Wow
There are a lot of books out there right now about critical race theory. The stories desperately need to be told. The real genius of this book is it gives actionable steps towards a more equitable future rooted in policy.
So much of it is hard to read but the solutions are clear and matter-of-fact.
This should be taught middle school and high school.
A must read and refreshing framework for 21st century patriotism
Superbly written. Passionately dispassionate about the facts. Excellent analysis. Legal anchoring and real world examples. Action oriented. Brava!