Heather McGhee

New & Noted

Heather McGhee

Presented in partnership with The Pittsburgh Foundation


“This is the book I’ve been waiting for.”

Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

In conversation with William Generett Jr., board member for The Pittsburgh Foundation and Senior Vice President of Civic Engagement at Duquesne University

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too.

McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm—the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. She meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to policies rooted in racism. This is the story of how public goods in this country—from parks and pools to functioning schools—have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and how the US has thwarted accessible healthcare. McGhee also finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: gains that come when people come together across race, to accomplish what we simply can’t do on our own.

The Sum of Us is a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here: divided and self-destructing, materially rich but spiritually starved and vastly unequal. McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims: white people themselves. With startling empathy, this heartfelt message from a Black woman to a multiracial America leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.

“One of the most fascinating things about The Sum of Us is how it challenges the assumptions of both white antiracism activists and progressives who just want to talk about class.”



Copies of The Sum of Us will be available for sale from Mystery Lovers Bookshop.

The Sum of Us


Tuesday, May 4, 2021​​​​​​​
Virtual Event, watch anytime online for one month



Only one virtual pass needed per household

Video links will be emailed to ticket holders on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 4, 2021​​​​​​​ and will be available for one month. Watch on-demand on any device that supports YouTube. Closed captioning will be available.
Community access tickets are available if cost is a barrier to view this lecture. If you’d like to request a community access ticket please email us at info@pittsburghlectures.org.




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