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

Written by:
Heather Mcghee
Narrated by:
Heather Mcghee

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
February 2021
11 hours 8 minutes
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD • 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.

WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Time, The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ms. magazine, BookRiot, Library Journal

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

Look for the author’s podcast, The Sum of Us, based on this book!

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. 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 Maine to Mississippi to California, 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: the benefits we gain when people come together across race to accomplish what we simply can’t do on our own. The Sum of Us is not only a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here but also a heartfelt message, delivered with startling empathy, from a black woman to a multiracial America. It leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.

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Jess L.

Incredible book! I'm not doing it justice even a little by this description, but she did a great job writing in a way that gave important information without being overwhelming. She gave excellent context through examples so I didn't get lost in the facts of the story. The flow of information to example to potential solutions was great and the topics she talked about had a good range without being overly broad or narrow. Though I thought it would be a good read for someone already relatively knowledgeable, I think it would be a perfect introductory book about how racism has affected our society on every level and how we still feel those affects today.

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Robert V.

Strong and insightful. Compelling and thought provoking. I highly recommend!

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Adam H.

Best book of the summer and an important read. At a time when I democracy can either crumble or strengthen, this piece gives us a formula that all but ensures the latter. Beautifully written, as well.

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Juanita M.

very educational for me.

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Revida R.

Highly recommend

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