trickybrit's review

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informative reflective medium-paced

5.0

lauraschwemm's review

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5.0

Brilliant

lbrex's review

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5.0

I heard about this on the Slate Political Gabfest and promptly ordered it because the author made it sound both important and interesting. It is a very readable, interesting, and well-supported account of the ways that racism hurts everyone in the US (even white people! yes!) and the ways in which government projects that close the equity gap and work to provide resources to everyone can keep us from falling into an "us-versus-them" mentality that corporate America has relied on to put profits ahead of people. The book sketches out a history in which the government, after the civil rights area, promptly began undoing and stripping away the the opportunities made possible by the New Deal because, at that point in our history, these opportunities would have been available to everyone, even people of color. There are excellent insights here about religion in the US, the history of labor unions, health care, and the depopulation of rural towns. McGhee makes clear that the inequalities of slavery have hurt both the Black people and the white people of the south, and that these inequalities still hurt all of the non-rich in former slave states. McGhee sold me on the points that she made here, and this review strengthened my support in the racial transformation work and ambitious government projects that are currently taking place. I hope this book shows up on lots of top lists for 2021 (I know it is already a bestseller)--everyone should read it.

emiged's review

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Read for Black History Month 2022

In “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together”, Heather McGhee deftly deconstructs the “zero sum” mentality at the core of so much of our society, how racism factors in, and the damage that paradigm does to everyone.
***
“The fear that drives the violence and mendacity of American voter suppression is rooted in a zero-sum vision of democracy: either I have the power and the spoils, or you do. But the civil rights-era liberation of the African American vote in the South offered a Solidarity Dividend for white people as well. The elimination of the poll tax in particular freed up the political participation of lower-income white voters. Indeed, white voters in Georgia and Virginia had challenged the poll tax requirement, but the courts upheld it in 1937 and 1951. After the civil rights movement knocked down voting barriers, white as well as black registration and turnout rates rose in former Jim Crow states. And a fuller democracy meant more than just a larger number of ballots; it meant a more responsive government for the people who hadn’t been wealthy enough to have influence before. It meant a break, finally, from what the southern political scientist V.O. Key described in 1949 as the stranglehold of white supremacy, single-party politics, and the dominance of the Bible Belt planter class.” (158-59)

“Perhaps it makes sense, if you’ve spent a lifetime seeing yourself as the winner of a zero-sum competition for status, that you would have learned along the way to accept inequality as normal; that you’d come to attribute society’s wins and losses solely to the players’ skill and merit. You might also learn that if there are problems, you and yours are likely to be spared the costs. The thing is, that’s just not the case with the environment and climate change. We live under the same sky. Scorching triple-digit days, devastating wildfires, and drought restrictions on drinking water have become the new normal for California’s working-class barrios and gated communities alike. Wall Street was flooded by Superstorm Sandy; most of the 13 million people with imperiled seafront housing on the coasts belong to the upper classes. The cash crops at the base of the American agribusiness economy are threatened by more frequent droughts. The majority of white Americans are skeptical or opposed to tackling climate change, but the majority of white Americans will suffer nonetheless from an increasingly inhospitable planet.

“It all seemed to come back to the zero-sum story: climate change opposition is sold by an organized, self-interested white elite to a broader base of white constituents already racially primed to distrust government action. The claims are racially innocent–we won’t risk the economy for this dubious idea–but those using them are willing to take immense risks that might fall on precisely the historically exploited: people of color and the land, air, animals, and water. Like the zero-sum story, it’s all an illusion–white men aren’t truly safe from climate risk, and we can have a different but sustainable economy with a better quality of life for more people. But how powerful the zero-sum paradigm must be to knock out science and even a healthy sense of self-preservation. And how dangerous for us all.” (205-06)

“Colorblindness has become a powerful weapon against progress for people of color, but as a denial mindset, it doesn’t do white people any favors, either. A person who avoids the realities of racism doesn’t build the crucial muscles for navigating cross-cultural tensions or recovering with grace from missteps. That person is less likely to listen deeply to unexpected ideas expressed by people from other cultures or to do the research on her own to learn about her blind spots. When that person then faces the inevitable uncomfortable racial reality–an offended co-worker, a presentation about racial disparity at a PTA meeting, her inadvertent use of a stereotype–she’s caught flat-footed. Denial leaves people ill-prepared to function or thrive in a diverse society. It makes people less effective at collaborating with colleagues, coaching kids’ sports teams, advocating for their neighborhoods, even chatting with acquaintances at social events.” (230)

jcd1013's review against another edition

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5.0

The immeasurable wound

As much as this was a book that exposed the rotting foundation of America and how it hurts all of us, it was also a really hopeful book into how we as ordinary citizens can bring change.

michelejenn's review against another edition

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challenging emotional informative reflective medium-paced

5.0

cook03's review against another edition

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informative reflective medium-paced

4.5

ccclibon's review

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hopeful informative inspiring medium-paced

5.0

catrobindawg's review

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challenging informative

5.0

A must read (especially if you're white). If you don't think that racism affects you, you're mistaken. Very informative and well written.  

kayloric's review against another edition

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challenging emotional hopeful informative inspiring reflective slow-paced

4.75