Heather McGhee argues that everyone in society, irrespective of race, is ultimately better off through collective action. In practical terms, this involves people of different races making common cause with each other in order to secure important benefits such as clean air, decent housing, and higher wages. This is what McGhee calls the “solidarity dividend.”
All too often, people in America, especially the white working-classes, tend to adopt a zero-sum paradigm according to which a gain for one section of the population means a loss for everyone else. McGhee seeks to challenge this deeply entrenched way of thinking by putting forward an alternative paradigm that emphasizes the benefits to society as a whole that derive from collective action.
In The Sum of Us, McGhee finds that there are people all across America who have shown a willingness to depart from the old zero-sum paradigm—which works to maintain the wealth and power of a small minority—and embrace instead a form of collective endeavor that cuts across the racial divide to secure benefits for everyone in society.
The benefits derived from this solidarity dividend are by no means exclusively external; they are also physical and emotional. People actually feel better once they've thrown off their racial blinders and recognize that it's in their best interest if folks from different races come together and fight for a common cause.