The thing about preaching...is that persuasion is not its principal aim. Often, the goal is to send churchgoers back into the world renewed, perhaps edified but surely fortified for the trials that await. This is what one gets from McGhee’s stunning, sobering, oddly hopeful book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. She is not fishing for converts in a depleted sea. She is encouraging the faithful and equipping them for the kind of intellectual and spiritual journey that produced her book ... I don’t know of another book that weaves together the many strands of our racialized policy, politics and culture this elegantly and clearly ... Legions of people already accept some version of McGhee’s diagnosis, beginning with other readers of Du Bois. But many of them don’t know what to do with it, or what it means in policy terms, or whether it leaves any room for hope in a world of people willing to treat others as an infestation. The Sum of Us begins to answer these questions, thereby equipping the faithful to act on the good news even in a world that isn’t yet ready to hear it.
Every so often a book comes along that seems perfectly timed to the moment and has the potential to radically shift our cultural conversation. The Sum of Us...is one of those books ... It is a sometimes angry or frustrated book, rooted in McGhee’s long career at Demos trying and mostly failing to secure legislation that would benefit the public. But in the end, it’s a hopeful book because McGhee’s vision is so clear and so convincing.
[McGhee] ably moves through some of the largest infrastructural deficiencies in the U.S. and explains how a zero-sum mindset, combined with the constant plague of systemic racism, have led to fewer amenities for all ... McGhee’s anecdotes about the past read like cautionary parables for the future ... Supported by remarkable data-driven research and thoughtful interviews with those directly affected by these issues, McGhee paints a powerful picture of the societal shortfalls all around us. There is a greater, more just America available to us, and McGhee brings its potential to light.