The Sum of Us

What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

    • 4.4 • 128 Ratings
    • $14.99
    • $14.99

Publisher Description

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

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

Look for the author’s podcast, The Sum of Us, based on this book!

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.


February 16
Random House Publishing Group
Penguin Random House LLC

Customer Reviews

KatieCarterKatieCarter ,

Highly recommended

Excellent, thought-provoking book. Would recommend to literally everyone. While reading, I had to hold myself back from highlighting the entire book.

Richard Bakare ,

Divided We Fall

This book presents a new perspective and set of talking points for an age old argument. How can we lift all boats without sinking some? The existential question is, do you even recognize all boats as being equal? If not, you’re more likely to see everything as a zero sum game. Something that this book shows is a mostly Caucasian American image of race relations but something that is now becoming endemic of crony capitalism in itself.

Heather McGhee paints a painfully accurate and detailed accounting of how we got to the zero sum mentality. McGhee’s breakdown of the narratives that cost all of us so much prosperity had me searching for the exits. It was hard to see a glimmer of hope when centuries of bedrock racism has smothered every hope of progress. It’s in this moment when is when the real value in this book is seen. Wherein McGhee offers examples of prevailing outcomes that are using a new set of tools to break through the racist solidarity that keeps the zero sum game going.

McGhee introduces near the end a new concept of the “Solidarity Dividend.” Payoffs that will truly lift all boats but only if we can come together to solve our education, healthcare, environmental, and other issues. The onus is on progressives to reconstruct a consistent and broadly appealing message that sets facts straight and shows how working together benefits the human interests of all parties. McGhee also provides a framework and examples for executing this paradigm shift. A challenging but inspiring read.

TiaConley ,

A must read

A fantastic mix of historical knowledge, data-based insights, and storytelling that effectively summarizes the origin and current state of race relations in the US.

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