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

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

by Heather McGhee (Author)

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.
“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 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 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 Mississippi to California to Maine, 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: gains that come when people come together across race, to accomplish what we simply can’t do on our own.

The Sum of Us is a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here: divided and self-destructing, materially rich but spiritually starved and vastly unequal. McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims: white people themselves. With startling empathy, this heartfelt message from a Black woman to a multiracial America leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than zero-sum.

In her thought-provoking book, "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together," Heather McGhee presents a compelling exploration of the far-reaching consequences of racism and its impact on both individuals and society as a whole. Weaving together historical context, personal anecdotes, and rigorous data analysis, McGhee constructs a powerful narrative that sheds light on the insidious ways in which racism permeates various aspects of American life, hindering the progress and well-being of all citizens, regardless of race.

McGhee meticulously dissects the intricate web of policies and practices that perpetuate racial inequality, from housing discrimination to mass incarceration to the widening wealth gap. She meticulously demonstrates how these systems are inextricably linked, creating a cycle of disadvantage that traps marginalized communities in a state of perpetual struggle. By vividly illustrating the human cost of racism, McGhee challenges readers to confront the realities of racial injustice and its impact on everyone, not just those who directly experience it.

However, "The Sum of Us" is not a mere exposé of racial disparities. McGhee also offers a roadmap for a more just and equitable society, one in which the full potential of all individuals can be realized. She argues that dismantling racism is not only a moral imperative but also an economic necessity, as it unlocks the untapped potential of a diverse and inclusive society. McGhee proposes concrete policy solutions and initiatives that address the root causes of racial inequality, fostering a level playing field for all. These solutions encompass expanding access to quality education, implementing fair housing policies, reforming the criminal justice system, and promoting economic equality.

Through her powerful storytelling and rigorous research, McGhee delivers a clarion call for action, urging readers to recognize the urgency of addressing racism and its devastating consequences. "The Sum of Us" is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the complexities of racial inequality and its impact on all aspects of society. It serves as a catalyst for change, challenging readers to embrace the ideals of justice, equality, and unity.


448 pages
February 16, 2021