Heather McGhee’s

The Sum of Us

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The Book

The Sum of Us


"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.

The Sum of Us

A year after the publication of the book, Heather hit the road again to find more reasons to be hopeful… more stories of cross-racial coalitions unlocking The Solidarity Dividend.

That journey is now a podcast, The Sum of Us. Produced by the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground, and Futuro Studios, The Sum of Us is a limited series with new episodes weekly every Wednesday only on Spotify.

The show will be available on all podcast platforms after its initial exclusive run on Spotify, in early October.

Companion Guide

Heather partnered with the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, Color Of Change, to create a companion guide to the podcast. Consider this hub your launching pad to join “The America That’s Becoming.” It is an invitation to organize and fight injustice in many forms.

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About

Heather designs and promotes solutions to inequality in America.

About Heather

Heather designs and promotes solutions to inequality in America.

Heather designs and promotes solutions to inequality in America. Her new book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together is now available from One World, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Her 2020 TED talk, “Racism Has a Cost for Everyone” reached 1 million views in just two months online. In the coming year, she will launch an original podcast on how to create cross-racial solidarity in challenging times.

Heather has testified in Congress, drafted legislation, and developed strategies for organizations and campaigns that won changes to improve the lives of millions. For nearly two decades, she helped build the non-partisan "think and do" tank Demos, serving four years as president. Through her regular media appearances, she elevates the concerns of working families on programs including NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

She is the chair of the board of Color of Change, the country’s largest online racial justice organization, and volunteers for numerous other boards in the fields of philanthropy and social justice. Heather graduated from Yale University and the University of California Berkeley School of Law, and has honorary degrees from Muhlenberg College and Niagara University. She lives in Brooklyn with her urbanist husband, a twenty year-old cat and a chatty toddler.

Moments

Moments

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Podcast Appearances

Marketplace

Public pools used to be everywhere in America. Then racism shut them down.

Marketplace

Public pools used to be everywhere in America. Then racism shut them down.

NPR Fresh Air

“Sum of Us” Examines the Hidden Cost of Racism - for Everyone

NPR Fresh Air

“Sum of Us” Examines the Hidden Cost of Racism - for Everyone

The Ezra Klein Show

What Drained Pool Politics Costs America (Podcast)

The Ezra Klein Show

What Drained Pool Politics Costs America (Podcast)

Pod Save America

Juneteenth

Pod Save America

Juneteenth

coming soon

Heather is developing two original podcasts to launch later in 2020. Sign up to be the first to have a chance to subscribe!

Writing & Research

Movement-Builders

Heather serves with key organizations building a movement for equality, chief among them Color Of Change and Demos.

color of change

Heather is the Board Chair for Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization helping people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us.

Heather is the past president and now Trustee Emeritus at Demos. Demos is a dynamic “think-and-do” tank that powers the movement for a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy. Through cutting-edge policy research, inspiring litigation and deep relationships with grassroots organizations, Demos champions solutions that will create a democracy and economy rooted in racial equity.

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