The Sum of Us book cover by Heather McGhee. An illustration of a boy jumping into a public pool
The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee.

๐ŸŒฑ Sum of Us | Bridging Connections to Build Coalitions

Part IV: The Evolving Face of Racism in the U.S.

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized: Our greatest stumbling block has been the inability of the collective to see how interconnected everything is. Recognizing how economic messaging and conversations can help us win in November.

In Case You Missed It: Our Great Stumbling Block

What You Can Expect
๐Ÿœ 3rd Spaces & Conversations
๐Ÿ—ณ Becoming an Intersectional Voter
๐ŸŒฑ News with a Social Change Lens
๐ŸŽ™ Israel-Palestine Impact on U.S Elections

Our greatest stumbling block has been the inability of the collective to see how interconnected everything is. Last weekโ€™s writing was to illustrate the interconnectedness of the hateful policies and decisions that lock the United States into a white supremacist society. While it is policies and institutions that keep us from having hard conversations and evolving as a society, we are also a part of the system. There are individual people behind the policy decisions and how institutions are run.

Itโ€™s corny, but itโ€™s true that we are the heroes that weโ€™ve been waiting for.

While we may be swimming in the seas of white supremacy in our institutions, governments, businesses, education, and every facet of American life, we have power to overcome these forces through the collective approach to creating change.

3rd Space & Reconnecting with Conversations

Lasting, sustainable change can be achieved by building coalitions, having hard conversations, and seeing each others humanity. Unfortunately, our current world makes it all but impossible for us to authentically connect with one another. The media enjoys controversy and dividing folks because it gets clicks and makes them a profit. Social media has connected the world only to leave us more disconnected from real human interaction. TikTok has trained us to be passive consumers instead of active participants in building change.

In the real world, weโ€™ve lost third spaces, which are places for social interaction outside of where you work or live. Increasingly, everything that you do when you walk out of your house (if you are lucky to have one in this age) costs money! Couple that with the rising wealth inequality and the number of people struggling to get by paycheck to paycheck and you have isolation. No part of this environment lends itself to building deep connections with people!

Itโ€™s also unsurprising that we are in such a disconnected environment today. I read Heather McGeeโ€™s book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together when it first came out in early 2021. I had become a voracious reader of anti-racist books, but this is a foundational text IMHO for anti-racist leaders.

The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee - Audiobook -

She illustrates how deeply embedded white supremacy is in our society and offers hope in a collectivist message that we can all be free if we recognize the harms for everyone and defeat white supremacy together.

The book cover for the The Sum of Us is an illustration of a Black boy jumping into a public pool. In the book, Heather McGee reflects on how pools very quickly became privatized or were neglected as soon as desegregation began during the Civil Rights Era. The loss of a public pool means a loss of community, which means further division and isolation from people outside your circle. Iโ€™m often reminded of this anecdote when I reflect on the lack of third spaces. Sadly today, the ripple effects of racist policies are no longer about the loss of public pools, but the lack of clean drinking water for an entire city. The choices that were made long ago are still deeply infecting our ways of living healthy lives and connecting.

While itโ€™s right to identify racism as a culprit for our social loneliness and lack of collective spaces, we need to look one layer deeper at the why and the how. Why donโ€™t we have third spaces? Why are all of our ways of communicating dominated by tech?

Simply put, the further divided we can be, the easier it is to keep wealth and power at the top. Isolation, high rates of anxiety, and a loneliness epidemic work to keep us locked in a status quo that is increasingly funneling wealth to the most wealthy and leaving the rest of us behind. This phenomenon is not new, but itโ€™s become more stark since the pandemic. Iโ€™m starting to see more people refer to this period as the 2nd Gilded Age, which feels apt.

Becoming an Intersectional Voter

We are in a time where the world seems deeply divided. Our systems are rusting and bad actors are exploiting this for power and profit. However, the real divide in our world is between the ultra-wealthy who are working to amass more wealth and power, and everyone else who just wants to live and not pay $10 for a banana.

Thatโ€™s the message of solidarity that we can all get behind because weโ€™re all experiencing the ramifications of the growing wealth gap. Our costs are going up, while the quality of things is declining. Itโ€™s the enshitification of the internet but for everything. Plus, this is all happening while we are not solving the climate crisis and the increasing planetary destruction. (no biggie!)

โ€œIt is a fake crown that we wear. My message would be to take off the fake crown. It will cost you more to keep it than to let it go. It is not real. It is just a marker of your programming. You will be happier and freer without it. You will see all of humanity. You will find your true self.โ€

โ€” Isabel Wilkerson,
โ€˜Caste: The Origins of Our Discontentsโ€™

Since the pandemic, regular people are being increasingly squeezed out of everyday life and we are slow-walking towards another consequential election. While it feels like a lot of voters are not yet alive to the dangers of a right-wing victory in November, there are also amazing organizers already working to make this election a win for democracy reform, womenโ€™s autonomy, and economic liberation. One amazing group is Way to Win which is led by the best messaging experts on the Democratic side (imho), Anat Shenker-Osorio. They host regular messaging briefings for organizations, campaigns, and grassroots groups to hear about the latest message polling and how to craft collaborative messages across organizations. Itโ€™s a really powerful tool that helps our side use the power of collective action to change the media & social narrative away from right-wing talking points.

In 2024, weโ€™re seeing what racism costs all of us in a more visible way every single day. While some are looking away or seeking out tribalism to distract, more of us can come together and collectively work to end the structural problems that keep us divided, or as bell hooks refer to it to end white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

Explore more information on the economic messaging advice from Way to Win:

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The tragedy in Israel-Palestine will be a loud issue for the 2024 election if this weeks news is proof. First, U.S. Air Force member, Aaron Bushnell, died through self-immolation as a form of protesting the genocide in Gaza, 100,000 plus voters in Michigan who voted โ€˜uncommittedโ€™ to protest Bidenโ€™s support for Israel's war in Gaza are red flags for Democrats, and the reports of Israel opening fire on an aid truck and 100+ people dead. Listen to my conversation with Nadia Rahman from December to hear how we can respond and vote in the 2024 election. Our chat remains true today! Find our latest videos on our ๐ŸŽฌ Quick Bites page.

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Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists ๐Ÿฅต to avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.

Learn more about the Roots of Change Agency.