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

de Heather McGhee

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I admit I was biased as I came into this with an appreciation for Heather McGhee's POV from listening to interviews with her. In the antiracist literature cannon, I like this contribution because she seems to devote similar space to discussing specific U.S. economic and labor policies as social policy. Perhaps because of this focus, I do think her arguments have a tendency to fall along party lines, with harsher criticism being directed toward the easy target of Republicans and quite softer criticism being directed toward white Dems, whose racism is just as pernicious, if sometimes expressed differently. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
Eye-opening survey of the systemic racism that began with the founding of the US, and continues to exist to this day. ( )
  libq | May 19, 2021 |
this is an excellent and thought-provoking book. It is often depressing, as you would expect, although McGhee also presents reasons for hope.

McGhee runs down the racist, anti-Black roots of many of the major societal problems in America today, examining at the same time the ways in which these policies have also greatly harmed whites along the way. Her thesis, as per the title, is that working and middle class whites have been sold a "Zero Sum" philosophy: if Blacks "win," whites, by definition, "lose." So, for one easy example, welfare programs that would help many more whites than Blacks must be bad nevertheless, because Blacks are "takers" who don't deserve taxpayer help. Never mind the number of poor whites who would be lifted as well.

McGhee uses as her operating metaphor (as per the book's cover art) the history of public swimming pools. During the middle part of the 20th century, communities across the country, including across the South, had built public swimming pools. They were symbols in many cases of civic pride, gathering places for often thousands of people. However, when the law mandated that these pools be integrated, community after community closed the facilities, often filling the pools in and covering them over, rather than comply with that new law. So not only were Blacks kept out, but tens of thousands of white people lost their public swimming pools as well.

The book examines the housing/mortgage crisis, environmental racism, redlining, voting rights, disengenuous "color blindness" and several more issues, which all come under McGhee's microscope to convincing effect. There is also a chapter on the psychic toll that racism takes on whites called "The Hidden Wound," the title taken from Wendell Berry's 1968 book of the same name.

The book's final chapter, though, is titled "The Solidarity Dividend," and outlines several successful grass roots, cross-ethnic efforts currently underway at the grass roots level both in individual communities and across the country. McGhee spent a lot of time crossing the country and investigating her thesis and she has a career's worth of experience in policy advocating and organizing to draw on, as well.

Finally, the book is clearly and engagingly written, and does not come across as a polemic. McGhee seems to me to be writing out of sorrow and, often, frustration, but also out of love and hope for the future. She lays out the problems and conditions of our times exceedingly well, and suggests what could be a doable roadmap for the future. ( )
1 vota rocketjk | May 2, 2021 |
22 July 2021: 5- review here

8 April 2021: 4+/5- review here ( )
  joyblue | Apr 9, 2021 |
Similar ground to Dying of Whiteness—ways in which racism divides whites from people of color, especially Black people, and thus leads to worse outcomes for everyone. The public pools that were closed around the country to avoid integration, denying everyone but people who could afford private pools the ability to swim so that they wouldn’t be swimming together, are both metaphor and very concrete example of this general worsening. With pools, “[a] once-public resource became a luxury amenity, and entire communities lost out on the benefits of public life and civic engagement once understood to be the key to making American democracy real. Today, we don’t even notice the absence of the grand resort pools in our communities ….” Appeals to white racism allowed Republicans to switch from high marginal taxes and investment in the middle class to low taxes and disinvestment. In 1980, five out of six students at public colleges were white; now it’s under six in ten; and it is no accident that public funding for higher education was gutted during this transition, and student debt skyrocketed—including for the whites who are still the majority of those borrowers (though they carry lower debt loads). McGhee wrote before the most recent round of voter suppression measures, but those too will disenfranchise a lot of white people in order to disproportionately harm Black voters. And pollution in minority communities hurts and kills those communities, but also contaminates nearby white communities: more segregation means worse air quality in a city, even controlling for poverty.

Thus, McGhee argues, progressive politics should focus on rejecting the zero-sum framing which is right now the automatic way in which many whites perceive progressive policies, even ones presented in race-neutral terms. For example, she emphasizes the benefits of diversity, not for white people but for decisionmaking, citing research suggesting that groups with less demographic similarity produce better solutions and do better at discovering the different information held by different members. It’s more cognitive effort, which means it’s less comfortable even without racism, but it works better. ( )
1 vota rivkat | Mar 29, 2021 |
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I am amazed with your storytelling, great job! If you allow, may I share your book to facebook in order to reach more readers? And by the way, NovelStar is currently conducting a writing competition - You have a great potential.
afegit per MarshaMellow |, Marsha Mellow
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