Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Sum of Us

The Sum of Us
  The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We can Prosper Together
Author:  Heather McGhee
Publication Information:  One World. 2021. 448 pages.
ISBN:  0525509569 / 978-0525509561

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Why can't we have nice things?"

Favorite Quote:  "Since this country's founding, we have not allowed our diversity to be our superpower, and the result is that the United States is not more than the sum of its disparate parts. But it could be. And if it were, all of us would prosper."

Heather McGhee's book states its purpose upfront. "This book recounts my journey to tally the hidden costs of racism to us all." It states the need for this journey up front. "In my gut, I've always known that laws are merely expressions of a society's dominant beliefs. It's the beliefs that must shift in order for outcomes to change. When policies change in advance of the underlying beliefs, we are often surprised to find the problem still with us." It states the hope. "In short, we must emerge from this crisis in our republic with a new birth of freedom, rooted in the knowledge that we are so much more when the 'We' in 'We the people' is not some of us, but all of us. We are greater than, and greater for, the sum of us."

In between its statement of purpose and its hope, the book documents the impact of the long-held zero-sum paradigm. That familiar paradigm goes as follows. For one to get ahead or "win," another must fall behind or "lose." For many, that paradigm is so ingrained that we do not even realize that it is a belief not a fact and that it is a belief that can be altered by each of us individually and by us a collective society and nation.

The book lays out the history in ten chapters, each focusing on a different economic or societal area - public pools, education, voting laws, pollution, home ownership particularly subprime mortgages to name a few. Each chapter presents data and individual stories that make the data personal and perhaps more understandable and relatable.

The history and the data presented is well researched with a significant portion of the book devoted to notes and references for further verification. In other words, don't just take the book's word for it; do your own further research. In the ebook version, many of the notes are presented as links and take the reader directly to the source. The lengthy list of interviews that underlie the stories occurred from 2017 to as recently as 2020. Further research and verification is encouraged. The one thing I would have appreciated even further is the inclusion of footnotes, make the cross-reference from the text to the notes even easier.

There is a lot of information in this book and a lot of opportunity to dig deeper. My recommendation to any reader is to take your time and really absorb the history being recounted.

The data is concrete; the stories are heartbreaking. The perspectives include people of different races and different parts of the country - all Americans. Both drive home the point again and again of the impact of racism on all of us. Some of the individual stories mirror my own personal experiences and bring the book even closer to home. This impacts each and every one of us. I walk away educated and with the certainty that I have a lot more still to learn.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment