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by Elise Loehnen and Cadence13
Pulling The Thread with Elise Loehnen

How to End Zero-Sum Thinking (Heather McGhee)


Heather McGhee is a designer of, and advocate for, solutions to inequality in America. We discuss her New York Times bestselling book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, in which she seeks to push us all past zero-sum thinking, or the idea that if you get something you want or need, it must mean that I get less. In fact, she points to numerous examples throughout history that show how this framework has made our society more cruel and poorer than it otherwise might be. Heather pushes us to recognize the fingerprints of racism in all of our core dysfunctions, from climate change, to the roots of the financial crisis, to the ongoing fight for universal healthcare. 
“We must stop the siloed thinking that racism is great for white people and bad for people of color,” Heather says, “if you pull that thread, that’s exactly the same zero sum logic racists hold, that progress for people of color has to come at the expense of white people, that we are at odds, fighting over crumbs…there has to be a better paradigm of mutual benefit.” The Sum of Us is a story of why “drained pool politics”—an idea named after the fact that in the ‘50s and ‘60s, many towns chose to fill in their public pools and lose access to this social good rather than integrate them and share them with Black people—is costing everyone, in ongoing ways. She offers that with multiracial coalitions we can subvert fear mongering about an equitable society and fight for a more prosperous nation for all. 


Chronicling the disappearance of public goods and the retreat from public life following the New Deal (Approx. 8:26)

Investigating the roots of zero sum thinking, finding fingerprints of racism in all of our core disfunction (Approx. 35:22)

Fighting for solidarity dividends (Approx. 36:35)

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together 
Heather McGhee's Website
Follow Heather on Twitter and on Instagram

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Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019
The City We Became - N. K. Jemisin

Support for Government Guaranteed Job and Standard of Living by Demographic Group - the ANES Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior
Which racial/ethnic groups care most about climate change? - Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
2021 Voting Laws Round Up - the Brennan Center for Justice

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by Elise Loehnen and Cadence13