The Sum of Us
What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together
A renowned expert on the American economy, Heather McGhee is one of the most brilliant and influential thinkers exploring inequality today. Both her viral TED talk and her instant New York Times bestseller The Sum of Us reveal the devastating true cost of racism—not just for people of color, but for everyone. Deeply stirring, intelligent, and compassionate, McGhee’s talks offer us an actionable roadmap during one of the most critical—and most troubled—periods in history.
“This is a book for every American, and I am grateful for McGhee’s research, her humanity, and her never-more-important teachings.”— Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author
What if, in the middle of your live TV appearance, someone asked for advice on overcoming racial prejudice? For Heather McGhee, the response was natural: she helped. The viral exchange, now viewed over 10 million times, also inspired her to kick off a cross-country journey throughout America, where she explored what we lose when we buy into the “zero-sum” paradigm—the idea that progress for some, comes at the expense of others. Her deeply personal experiences come together in The Sum Of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. An analysis of how we arrived at this divided nation, The Sum of Us illuminates how racism is at the root of some of our most vexing public problems, from collapsing infrastructure to rising student debt. But at the heart of the book are humble stories of people yearning to be a part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims: white people themselves. Hailed as “illuminating and hopeful,” the critically acclaimed book spent 10 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and was longlisted for the National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. It’s being adapted into a Spotify podcast series by Michelle and Barack Obama’s production company, as well as a young adult reader’s version by Random House Children’s Books.
To date, The Sum of Us has been endorsed by the likes of Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, who calls it a “must read.” It has also been dubbed “The book that should change how progressives talk about race” (New York Times) and “Required reading to move the country forward…” (Chicago Tribune). The Sum of Us was named one of the Washington Post and TIME’s Must-Read Books of 2021, and the Best Business Book of the Year by Porchlight.
For nearly two decades, McGhee helped build the non-partisan “think and do” tank Demos, serving four years as president. Under her leadership, Demos moved their original idea for “debt-free college” into the center of the 2016 presidential debate, argued before the Supreme Court to protect voting rights in January 2018, and provided expert testimony to Congressional committees, including a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. As an executive, McGhee led Demos’ own racial equity organizational transformation, resulting in a doubling of the organization’s racial diversity and growth across all measures of organizational impact. In 2018, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz also asked McGhee to advise the company as it designed an anti-bias training for 250,000 employees in the wake of the unjust arrest of two Black men in a Philadelphia store. McGhee wrote a report with recommendations for how Starbucks could apply a racial equity lens to their businesses, and how other companies both large and small can benefit from doing the same.
An influential voice in the media and an NBC contributor, McGhee regularly appears on NBC’s Meet the Press and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Deadline White House, and All In. Her opinions, writing, and research have appeared in numerous outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico and National Public Radio.
McGhee holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. She currently serves as a Visiting Lecturer in Urban Studies at the City University of New York’s School of Labor and Urban Studies. She has also held visiting positions at Yale University’s Brady-Johnson Grand Strategy Program and the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. McGhee is the Chair of the Board of Color of Change, the country’s largest online racial justice organization, and serves on multiple other boards of trustees, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Demos. For the latest updates on Heather’s writing, speeches, and media appearances, visit www.heathermcghee.com.
“The event was a splendid success. Heather gave an absolutely riveting talk, winning the admiration of students and faculty alike. It exceeded even my own very high expectations. She’s a gem.”Yale University
“We were thrilled to host a virtual keynote with Heather McGhee for an audience of education system leaders from across the U.S. Heather was brilliant. The audience learned so much in that hour, and found her style to be warm and compelling. She brought a clear, inspiring, and inclusive call to action and we all left energized and hopeful.”WestEd
“Our folks really appreciated the time with Heather! Her strong analysis along with powerful stories provided really clear teaching and insights. At the end, she gave us an inspiring call to action not only based on her leadership and expertise but also in response to the dialogue with our Sr. Fellows.”American Leadership Forum, Silicon Valley
“Heather's presentation was engaging, thoughtful, and inspiring! The follow up conversation flowed naturally and set the perfect tone for this moment in time. We’ve received great feedback from members who clearly appreciate Heather's work, and there were quite a few comments in the chat from folks eager to get a hold of her book.”Southeastern Council of Foundations
“We have already received very positive feedback on your impactful and very relevant mainstage session. Some examples of the comments included “Heather was incredible," “Superb in every way.” We are also deeply grateful for your participation and presentation during the Annual EGA Trustee Dinner sharing your wisdom and lessons learned from your time at the helm of Demos’ racial equity transformation. EGA members deeply appreciated listening to your insights and engaging with you.”Environmental Grantmakers Association