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The Cost of the Zero-Sum Paradigm on Race and
the American Economy with Heather McGhee

Tanner Humanities Center hosts author of "The Sum of Us, What Racism Costs
Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together" Thursday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m.

Heather McGhee

Heather McGhee

Oct. 31, 2022 – In 2016, a C-Span call went viral when a white caller who proclaimed himself prejudiced asked Heather McGhee, author of “The Sum of Us, What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” how to overcome his racial bias and be a better American. She graciously thanked him for acknowledging his fears and prejudices and outlined a path forward by providing achievable changes to mend racial divides. She advised him – and everyone – to get to know black families, join a black church, understand that nightly news over-represents black crime and under-represents white crime and to become educated about the history of African Americans in this country.

The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah will host McGhee for the annual Tanner Lecture on Human Values, Thursday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m., in the S.J. Quinney College of Law Moot Courtroom. In her original lecture, McGhee will address structural racism, the economy and the benefits gained when people come together to practice what McGhee calls The Solidarity Dividend: working together across racial lines to accomplish what they can't do on their own. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required and can be obtained through Eventbrite

"Heather McGhee's work shows us how racism doesn't only continue to hurt communities of color in this country, it also helps further the exploitation of poor white communities and keeps us from enacting policies that would help the American public across the board," said Jeremy Rosen,acting director of the Tanner Humanities Center.

McGhee takes on America's economy and the mission to end racial zero-sum thinking – one group's success comes at the expense of another. She explores why the economy so often fails all American people by journeying around the nation, exploring stories ranging from rising student debt to the financial crisis, the lack of universal healthcare, and collapsing public infrastructure, always landing on racism as the common issue.  

"McGhee's attention to civic engagement has never been timelier," said Hollis Robbins, dean of the College of Humanities. "For example, the desire of older generations ‘to pass down the value of voting to the younger generation. What can we do to narrow the age gap in voting?’ McGhee asks. This will be an important policy conversation a week after the midterm elections when we ponder the results and our hopes for a more equitable future." 

In addition to her book, McGhee hosts "The Sum of Us" podcast, delivered a TED talk in 2020, and has appeared on The Daily Show, NBC, MSNBC, NPR and more. She serves as the chair of the Board of Color of Change, the country's largest online racial justice organization.  

About The Tanner Humanities Center
The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah is proud to be celebrating 35 years of promoting humanities inquiry and exchange. The Center supports innovative scholarly projects and creates opportunities for interaction among scholars, students, and lifelong learners. It offers programs in three major areas: public outreach, educational enrichment, and academic research. The activities reflect a vision of the humanities as not only relevant, stimulating, and cutting-edge but also essential for developing critical thinking, tolerance, and respect on campus and in the community.


Missy Weeks, Tanner Humanities Center | 801-587-8879

Jana Cunningham, University of Utah College of Humanities | 801-213-0866

Published November 1, 2022


Last Updated: 11/22/22