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The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Racism is bad for everyone. This seems like the sort of anodyne statement most people you’d be at all willing to talk to would agree with. And McGhee–an American Black political strategist–wants to be clear that she doesn’t want to re-center discussion yet again on White America–that problems that affect people of color are worth handling in and of themselves.

Buuuuut. This book seems to come from her frustration with a zero-sum game mindset. (I agree with her, the zero-sum game mindset is pretty terrible.) And the more research she did, the more she had gigantic stacks of facts, figures, and personal stories that indicated that–really, truly, here’s the math–racism makes the entire system worse for white people as well as for people of color. Is that the only reason, or even the main reason, to oppose racism? Hell no, and McGhee would be the first to tell us it isn’t. But there’s a big difference between “I know this is great for you, but it’s bad for other people so you shouldn’t support it” and “This is terrible for everybody,” and it’s worth recognizing that difference.

Which McGhee does, in detail. Even if you think that you’re a reasonably historically and politically educated person who is committed to anti-racism, some of the stats here may well surprise you. When I was first reading this book, I kept thinking, this is good, but will anyone who actually needs convincing pick it up? But I think the main part of the point for a book like this one is to make racists say, “Well, crap! I am screwing up my life by being racist! I should stop that!” but rather to strengthen the arguments of people who already have the general concept but can benefit from the details. I learned things here, and I’m glad I did. I think you will too.

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