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The Sum of Us

Written by Heather McGhee | Reviewed by Jennifer Morgan

The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee is one of those books that, as you read, you find yourself

frequently saying, “oh yes” or “oh my” or “I hadn’t realized” or “I should have noticed”. And those are the G-rated responses.

In her book, McGhee is explaining why it seems that so often we are “not able to have nice

things”; why the decision to keep others from having nice things prevents all of us from

benefitting. If we help one group to improve their lives, it does not mean it has to be at

someone else’s expense. Living in a society is not a zero-sum game. Racism, therefore, hurts

us all.

The author’s opening example of the public pool that was closed and filled in because it was required to integrate is perfect. Rather than include black families in the fun of a city pool on a hot summer day in the south, the city chose to not have a pool at all! The courts allowed the decision, because it did not discriminate, even though discrimination was the reason behind its closing.

While that is an historical example, there is much that McGhee brings to our attention that is current. Such acts as filling in the pool hardly ended with the Civil Rights movement and zero-sum thinking still fuels a great deal of systemic racism.

This book is a thoughtful, eye-opening look at society’s need to forget zero-sum thinking and let everyone benefit. Our Racist Anonymous Book group highly recommends reading The Sum of Us!

Note: this book is available in the church library!

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