The Sum Of Us

by Heather McGhee

Book list Why can’t a wealthy, developed country like the U.S. achieve adequate healthcare, infrastructure, school funding, and wages above poverty? For her first book, McGhee, Trustee Emeritus on the Demos Board, traveled all over the country and had hundreds of conversations, revealing the answer: “zero sum” logic. This logic claims if one person or group advances, another loses; five dollars in my pocket equals five dollars out of yours. Poisonously pervasive in U.S policy, zero sum compels white citizens to relinquish benefits rather than see Black and Brown Americans gain. In one startling example of many, public pools, once considered community crown jewels, were closed rather than integrate. McGhee offers a mountain range of evidence that zero sum is a falsehood. While Black Americans are disproportionately affected, the majority of benefit receivers are white, meaning the majority of people losing denied benefits, like expanded Medicaid, are white. In actuality, the “solidarity dividend” proves that everyone’s lives are improved when anyone advances. McGhee’s book is required reading, a true work of courage and intellectual rigor. Readers have likely asked: Why is this so hard for a country that has so much? By unearthing and exposing the faulty why, McGhee illuminates the path to actual change.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Political commentator McGhee argues in her astute and persuasive debut that income inequality and the decline of the middle and working classes in America are a direct result of the country’s long history of racial injustice. Many white Americans, McGhee claims, center their political beliefs and actions—often to their own detriment—on the false premise that social and economic gains for one race result in losses for another. She traces the history of race relations in America from slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the dawn of neoliberalism, documenting instances in which racism against Black Americans has diminished everyone’s quality of life and forestalled social progress, including the mass closure of public swimming pools in the 1950s and ’60s to avoid integration, and the American Medical Association’s “racist red-baiting campaign” to undermine President Truman’s efforts to pass universal health-care legislation. McGhee holds up a recent economic turnaround in Lewiston, Maine, as an example of how communities can thrive thanks to immigrants and people of color, driving home the point that racial inclusivity benefits all Americans. McGhee marshals a wealth of information into a cohesive narrative that ends on a hopeful note. This sharp, thorough, and engrossing report casts America’s racial divide in a new light. (Feb.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus A head-on consideration of the costs of American racism.Former Demos president McGhee undertook her first project for the organization by studying credit card debtwhich, by the early 2000s, was far more likely to affect Black and Latinx families than White ones. When the subprime mortgage bubble burst, that problem became ever more urgent. However, as the author notes, Congress made it worse when it caved to the demands of the credit industry, after which many of my fellow advocates walked away convinced that big money in politics was the reason we couldnt have nice things. One senator she overheard in the halls of the Capitol railed that the cause was the irresponsibility of minorities themselves, which set her on a diligent investigation of coded racism in the financial sector, which hinges on the zero-sum assumption that any gain for Blacks, say, would mean a concomitant loss for Whites. Not so. To this day, throughout the old Confederacy, the counties most dependent on slavery are the poorest today. When slavery was abolished, writes McGhee, Confederate states found themselves far behind northern states in the creation of the public infrastructure that supports economic mobility, and they continue to lag behind today. These deficits limit economic mobility for all residents, not just the descendants of enslaved people. Compassionate but also candid about the tremendous challenges we face, the author clearly shows how Southern racism extends throughout the country today. Those most opposed to unions, public education, and integration are mostly those at the top of the financial ladder; those lower down, of whatever ethnicity, wind up paying richly. In Chicago, McGhee estimates the cost of segregation is $4.4 billion in income and $8 billion in GDP. Restoring public goods is only a start in addressing those costs; the larger task, she writes provocatively, is getting Americans of all ethnicities to believe that we need each other.An eye-opening, powerful argument for working ever harder for racial equity. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Kirkus A head-on consideration of the costs of American racism. Former Demos president McGhee undertook her first project for the organization by studying credit card debt—which, by the early 2000s, was far more likely to affect Black and Latinx families than White ones. When the subprime mortgage bubble burst, that problem became ever more urgent. However, as the author notes, Congress made it worse when it caved to the demands of the credit industry, after which “many of my fellow advocates walked away convinced that big money in politics was the reason we couldn’t have nice things.” One senator she overheard in the halls of the Capitol railed that the cause was the irresponsibility of minorities themselves, which set her on a diligent investigation of coded racism in the financial sector, which hinges on the zero-sum assumption that any gain for Blacks, say, would mean a concomitant loss for Whites. Not so. To this day, throughout the old Confederacy, the counties most dependent on slavery are the poorest today. “When slavery was abolished,” writes McGhee, “Confederate states found themselves far behind northern states in the creation of the public infrastructure that supports economic mobility, and they continue to lag behind today. These deficits limit economic mobility for all residents, not just the descendants of enslaved people.” Compassionate but also candid about the tremendous challenges we face, the author clearly shows how Southern racism extends throughout the country today. Those most opposed to unions, public education, and integration are mostly those at the top of the financial ladder; those lower down, of whatever ethnicity, wind up paying richly. In Chicago, McGhee estimates the cost of segregation is $4.4 billion in income and $8 billion in GDP. Restoring public goods is only a start in addressing those costs; the larger task, she writes provocatively, is getting Americans of all ethnicities to believe that “we need each other.” An eye-opening, powerful argument for working ever harder for racial equity. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

214 Main Street Hanlontown, IA 50444  |  Phone: 641-896-2888
Powered by: YouSeeMore © The Library Corporation (TLC)