Going further together
Listening to Heather McGhee break down “zero-sum” thinking and its crippling impact on our nation at the 2021 Annual Convening underscored for me the importance of the Cradle to Career Network.
“We’re all on the same team.”
If we are going to change the “zero-sum” thinking that has been holding back all youth and families for generations, we must be on the same team. This is the message I am taking away from McGhee as she shared her perspective and insights gleaned from decades of data and historical evidence that contributed to her bestselling book “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How we can Prosper Together.”
McGhee explained that “if we have so many players sidelined due to debt and discrimination, we’re not going to score points.”
This just makes sense. In the discussion, McGhee made it clear to understand how seemingly beneficial programs instituted in the ‘50s and ‘60s (like guaranteed jobs, subsidized housing and the GI Bill) excluded and further harmed people of color. Not only do these stories crush your soul for those families and individuals of color trying to lift themselves out of poverty and have their chance at the American Dream, but they also highlight how this zero-sum frame of thinking hurts everyone. For example, she shared how limiting Medicaid and Medicare benefits also cuts off support to many white families living in rural areas, how draining public pools to avoid integration prevented white families from leveraging park and community resources, and how inadequately investing in childcare and education costs us trillions of dollars in skilled labor and economic mobility. We must work together in solidarity to “invite all of the children into the pool.”
Addressing systemic racism with a supply and demand approach
As a business and finance person myself, McGhee’s brilliant approach to breaking down this “zero-sum” mentality resonated into a few simple, but extremely critical actions:
- Name and explain how a zero-sum mentality harms everyone. Sharing examples and stories are powerful. Understand that some ancestries may need more resources and support to overcome historical disadvantages. That’s okay because we support the most marginalized, we all rise together.
- Stop the supply of racist ideas. Address the moral authority of politicians and “shake the values system.” McGhee referenced the impact of news and social media contributing to the divide through hate and outrage rhetoric. We must have the courage to stand up and reject the politics of hate.
- Create the demand for a better future. We need to leverage bottom up, grassroot efforts to bring our communities together around history and visioning. Community organizing and grassroots efforts through state coalitions can be critical to success. Racial healing can provide the desired state of connection and what belonging feels like.
“There’s something needed from both sides, stopping supply of racist ideas and healing from the ground up,” McGhee said.
As I reflect on the words from today’s session, I am once again reminded that we are all human, and we all have a specific contribution to make to our ecosystem. I have renewed hope and inspiration of the opportunity before us. StriveTogether and the Cradle to Career Network are a formidable team. We’re in the game to dismantle inequitable systems, stop the supply of racism and build the demand for a better future because “we all live under the same sky.” It must be possible!