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Santa Monica Reads 'The Sum of Us'

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By Lookout Staff

May 1, 2023 -- Santa Monica Reads, one of the nation's longest running community-wide reading programs, will discuss a bestselling book that shifted the debate on the ills of racism.

Heather McGhee's "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together" will be the subject of discussions hosted by trained facilitators, Library officials said Monday.

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It also is the subject of "provocative" programs that will be presented during Santa Monica College’s (SMC) 2023 Spring Symposium, which will feature a keynote address by Heather McGhee to the community on May 18.

"McGhee, formerly the head of the Demos advocacy group and now the chair of the Color of Change, developed the book from her 2020 TED Talk 'Racism has a Cost for Everyone,'" event organizers said.

"When people unite across racial and ethnic lines, McGhee argues, there’s a solidarity dividend that helps everyone."

Published by Penguin Random House, McGhee's book "offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: racism has a cost for everyone -- not just for people of color," according to the book's promotional material.

"Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?"

To find out, McGhee set out on a "deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, 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."

During Santa Monica reads, "discussion participants are encouraged to share their thoughts about 'The Sum of Us' and its themes or are welcome to simply listen and learn more about the book," organizers said.

Free copies for adults and young readers are available to those planning to participate in the Santa Monica Reads programs.

Participants can pick up a copy at the Main Library, and the Pico and Montana Avenue Branch locations starting Monday, May 1 while supplies last. Print and electronic copies are also available to borrow from the library.

Santa Monica Reads is sponsored by the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library in collaboration with the City, SMC and the School District. To become a Friend of the Library, visit

"The Sum of Us" will serve as the theme of The SMC Public Policy Institute (PPI) 2023 Spring Symposium, which features a screening of Derrick Bell's science fiction film "The Space Traders" with a panel discussion and audience Q&A.

In addition to McGhee's keynote address, the Symposium features a panel discussion hosted by SMC students titled “Why Don't We Have Nice Things?" which explores themes of race, class and solidarity.

For more information on the symposium visit or call 310-434-3541.

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