missdoster's review

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5.0

Fantastic book blending quantitative and qualitative data to tell the story of how racism impacts the economic health of America for all people. My copy has about 100 sticky notes coming out of it because there were so many statistics and paradigm shifts I wanted to come back to. I especially appreciated the chapters focusing on homeownership given my prior work in that arena. Highly recommend this book to all, but data nerds in particular.

an_aesthetic's review

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3.0

In this book, Heather McGhee explores the concept of the zero-sum paradigm, tacking the baffling question of why so many white people believe that if a minority group does well, it comes at the expense of white people’s success. A zero-sum paradigm is exactly what it sounds like—a lose-lose situation where both sides suffer. White people will often champion or vote against an issue, often at their own expense. I absolutely agreed with everything McGhee said in this book. She’s a highly intelligent and well-spoken author. For me though, I thought this book was a little dense and hard to follow at some points. It was super information heavy and parts of it read more like an analytical study, instead of a book. Also I found certain portions of the book to be repetitive and often she would introduce a question and explore it, but not follow through with a solution. But those qualms aside, the book is very eye-opening. There was a specific part in the book that blew my mind because it had never occurred to me. She talks about how 9/10 of the poorest states in the US are in the South. These are also the states that most heavily relied on slavery. These states are so poor today, because they did not have a need to invest in economic infrastructure or community organization. The suffering of black slaves led to the eventual suffering of white residents of those same states.

alyssanpalumbo's review

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challenging emotional hopeful informative inspiring reflective sad slow-paced

4.25

g_unit_lol's review

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4.0

When I got the opportunity to read The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee through NetGalley and One World publishing, I did not know what to expect. Heather McGhee is a lawyer and former leader of the inequality-focused think tank, Demos, an organization that advocates for equality and justice. The author combines past and current issues in the United States with research and interviews from people living their lives amid these disparities and shines a light on the fact that not only marginalized individuals but also disenfranchised white people are similarly affected by the same concerns.
I learned so much from this author about the history of our country and our government from the housing crisis and redlining to environment and climate change, to unions and the minimum wage and wage gaps in the United States. I found it overwhelming and disheartening to hear that the government in our country used racism and the zero-sum factor to sway White voters to vote against things like unions, increasing minimum wage, voting to remove companies from areas that are affecting the health of the citizens by impacting the environment. They did these things even though White Americans would benefit greatly from these policy changes, but they framed it so that the racial divide stays the same.
I thought the author did a great job explaining the different aspects of government and the issues that we are facing as a country, but I did find the book to be technical at times; it took me longer than usual to finish the book because of the nature of the information. I highly recommend this book because it sheds a light on the anti-racist movement and narrative that differs from the other authors I have read thus far.

c8_19's review

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informative reflective medium-paced

4.0

A smart, necessary book that paints a picture of the state of our nation as it's historically and currently impacted by racism and what it means for everyone who identifies as American — and not just people of color who are most blatantly hurt by bad policies and other poor economic and environmental practices.

At times, this was heavy and discouraging, and other times McGhee offers us anecdotes of hope. There are communities and organizations actively at work to shift the narrative of America. There's just a great deal to be working against, and it's work meant for all of us, not just the organized.

I greatly appreciate the scope of this piece. People from all kinds of backgrounds and identities were included, and I'm pretty sure every region of the country was touched upon in some way. Obviously, that just goes to further emphasize the reality of how no piece of this place we call home is immune to the consequences of racism nor has any area been innocent in the ways racism has been allowed to persist.

There were moments I felt things were a bit dense and dry, but, on the whole, his is engaging and accessible material. 

kbrenn12's review

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informative reflective medium-paced

3.75

hannyreads's review

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5.0

A very readable history book emphasizing zero-sum paradigm. I highly recommend reading this!!!

lukescalone's review

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5.0

Now this is a book that should be on all anti-racist reading lists. I have to say, when I picked it up and started reading, it came off as thoroughly light-weight. A lot of what is in here will be familiar to those who have already read a bit about anti-black racism in the United States. What separates McGhee's book from all of the others is her argument that anti-black racism (and all racism) does not simply affect the people who are being discriminated against, but it destroys opportunities for those who hold racist viewpoints. The obvious case is that of public pools during the Civil Rights Movement--whites often chose to fill their pools with concrete rather than share them with black people, taking away the enjoyment of swimming for everyone. McGhee's other cases here include segregation, housing policy, schools, unionization, and so much more.

Realistically, if we lived in a better world, this book should have never been written--understanding the negative effects of discrimination should be enough for people to say that American institutions need to be fundamentally transformed. Yet, in the context of a "zero sum game," where the bulk of white America believes that granting equal rights to others means losing their own position (privilege), it will be necessary to show that they are losing out on this "zero sum game" which isn't a zero sum game at all. There's a lot of good information here on how deep the politics of racial resentment pervade white communities--I had always known it existed, but never quite to the scale shown here. Ultimately, racism is America's original sin, and it is not an exaggeration when people argue that seemingly mundane institutions are racist--it's impossible to overstate the importance of racism in American society. McGhee's solutions are a bit obvious, meaning that they won't be particularly easy to implement and at times seem to come off more as platitudes, but she's right.

Required reading

ayem's review

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challenging hopeful informative reflective medium-paced

4.5

There were times when I was reading this book where I to put it down just to take a second to gape at (my marginalia is filled with "!!!!"s and "???"s and "WTFFFF!!"s) and try to comprehend the enormity of the penalty we've inflicted on ourselves to maintain the farce of racial hierarchy and white supremacy. Despite my general familiarity with the topics of this book, it was a deeply valuable read; it will open readers' eyes to just how much we have been and continue to be tricked, manipulated and divided to keep the working class down. 

My only critique is that to the extent that her audience is in part bourgeois white people, I think that the argument requires such readers to have already bought in to the project of racial justice; while I'm sure many of those readers are, it might limit the number of people for whom the argument is truly transformational.

jeninmotion's review against another edition

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hopeful informative slow-paced

5.0

This is a fantastic book that really gets across why racism is bad for everyone and it's why Americans can't have nice things.