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

In doing research and writing about disparities, I learned to focus on how white people benefited from systemic racism: their schools have more resources, they have less police contact, they have better access to health care. However, these hallmarks of white privilege are not freedoms that racial justice activists want to take away from whites – they are basic human rights and dignities that everyone should enjoy. And the right wing strives to fill the void if we don’t finish the sentence.

For an entire generation of American politics, racist stereotypes and dog whistles have strengthened the hand that slapped progressives in the struggle against rising inequality. But did whites win? No: Many of them have lost good jobs, benefits, and social mobility, as have the rest of us who were not born wealthy.

So the task ahead of us is to reverse this idea of ​​a fixed amount of wealth and replace it with what I call solidarity dividends: cleaner profits that are available to all when combined across racial lines in the form of higher wages Air and better funded schools.

I’ll never forget Bridget, a white woman I met in Kansas City who worked in fast food for over a decade. When one of Wendy’s employees first approached her to join a local Fight for $ 15 group and push for a livable minimum wage, she was skeptical. “I didn’t think things would ever change in my life,” she told me. “They didn’t want to give a fast food worker $ 15. That was just crazy for me. “

But Bridget attended the first organizational meeting anyway. And when one Latina woman stood up and described her life – three children in a two-bedroom apartment with poor bathroom facilities, the feeling of “being trapped in a life where she had no opportunity to do better” – Bridget, also a mother of three said she was impressed by how “I could really see myself in her”.

“I’ve had the whole series of” These immigrants come here and steal our jobs – they don’t pay taxes, they commit crimes and they cause problems, “admitted Bridget.” You know, we against them. “

Soon after starting the organization, the interracial movement won a convert. “So that we can all come up, I don’t have to come up and they stay down,” she said. “It’s about: In order for me to get up, they have to come up too. Because honestly, as long as we are divided, we are conquered. “

Ms. McGhee is the author of The Sum Of Us: What Racism All Costs And How We Can Thrive Together, from which this essay is adapted.

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