Opinion | The Way Out of America’s Zero-Sum Thinking on Race and Wealth



In my analysis and writing on disparities, I realized to deal with how white individuals benefited from systemic racism: Their colleges have extra funding, they’ve much less contact with the police, they’ve larger entry to well being care. These hallmarks of white privilege aren’t freedoms that racial justice activists wish to take away from white individuals, nevertheless — they’re primary human rights and dignities that everybody ought to take pleasure in. And the best wing is keen to fill the hole once we don’t end the sentence.

For a complete era of American politics, racist stereotypes and canine whistles have strengthened the hand that beat progressives within the struggle in opposition to rising inequality. However did white individuals win? No: Lots of them misplaced good jobs, advantages and social mobility together with the remainder of us not born into wealth.

The duty forward, then, is to unwind this concept of a set amount of prosperity and substitute it with what I’ve come to name Solidarity Dividends: positive factors accessible to everybody once they unite throughout racial traces, within the type of increased wages, cleaner air and better-funded colleges.

I’ll always remember Bridget, a white girl I met in Kansas Metropolis who had labored in quick meals for over a decade. When a co-worker at Wendy’s first approached her about becoming a member of a neighborhood Struggle for $15 group pushing for a livable minimal wage, she was skeptical. “I didn’t suppose that issues in my life would ever change,” she advised me. “They weren’t going to offer $15 to a quick meals employee. That was simply insane to me.”

However Bridget attended the primary organizing assembly anyway. And when a Latina girl rose and described her life — three youngsters in a two-bedroom residence with unhealthy plumbing, the sensation of being “trapped in a life the place she didn’t have any alternative to do something higher” — Bridget, additionally a mom of three, mentioned she was struck by how “I used to be actually capable of see myself in her.”


“I had been fed this complete line of, ‘These immigrant employees are coming over right here and stealing our jobs — not paying taxes, committing crimes and inflicting issues,’” Bridget admitted. “, us in opposition to them.”

Quickly after she started organizing, the cross-racial motion had gained a convert. “To ensure that all of us to return up, it’s not a matter of me developing and them staying down,” she mentioned. “It’s the matter of: To ensure that me to return up, they’ve to return up too. As a result of actually, so long as we’re divided, we’re conquered.”

Ms. McGhee is the creator of “The Sum of Us: What Racism Prices Everybody and How We Can Prosper Collectively,” from which this essay is customized.

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