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Heather McGhee's "The Sum of Us": Tallying The Social Costs of Racism

Heather McGhee-PenguinRH Web.jpeg
Photo by Andreas Brugess
Heather McGhee is the Board Chair of Color of Change, an anti-racism group.

The anti-racism activist contends centuries of racial hierarchy have harmed all Americans, including Whites.

(This conversation was originally broadcast on March 22, 2021)

Tom's guest on this archive edition of Midday has written a thoughtful and insightful books on the subject of racial inequality. Heather McGhee is the former head of the think tank, Demos, an organization that focuses on inequality. She is now the chair of the board of Color of Change, an on-line racial-justice advocacy group with 7 million members.

Sum of Us Jacket
Penguin Random House Publishers

Her new book is called The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. McGhee’s reporting is assiduous and compassionate. She explores the history and lunacy of policies and norms that proliferate belief in a racial hierarchy.This insidious allegiance to racial hierarchy has dominated the United States since its founding. No aspect of American life is spared, and no issue, be it education, health care, housing, voting, or climate change has been unaffected. McGhee makes the case that White unwillingness to align with Black people in common cause has not only been crushing for African Americans, but for millions of White people struggling for opportunity as well.

She writes, “America’s racial inequality is not only the most extreme manifestation of our inequality, but also the template, setting up a scaffolding of hierarchy that increasingly few people, of any race, can climb.” The Sum of Us also makes the case that the reasons for racial panic among White people are actually our biggest strategic assets, and our country’s greatest salvation.

McGhee observes that we have reached the productive and moral limit of the zero-sum economic model, and that we have to get on the same page in order to turn the page on race in America. If we are able to do so, she says, the rewards will be abundant. She calls them the "solidarity dividend."

Heather McGhee joins us on Zoom.

(This conversation was previously recorded, so we couldn't take ay new calls or comments.)

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Rob is Midday's senior producer.