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Combating Racism Together Is Theme of Community Events Next Month

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By Lookout Staff

April 11, 2023 -- Heather McGhee's best-selling book -- "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together" -- about the shared costs of racism will be the theme of a number of events in Santa Monica next month.

On May 18, McGhee will deliver the keynote address at Santa Monica College's (SMC) Public Policy Institute (PPI) and her 2021 book has been chosen as part of the Santa Monica Reads program, making it the subject of a widespread community discussion.

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McGhee's highly anticipated keynote address will kick off the 2023 Spring Symposium on Thursday, May 18, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at John Adams Middle School (JAMS) Performing Arts Center, 1630 Pearl Street.

It took a collaborative effort by SMC, SMC Associated Students, the City and the School District to bring McGhee to Santa Monica, college officials said.

The effort showcases the “willingness and unified intent of this community to grapple with the ongoing questions plaguing us as a society and nation,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery.

“I am tremendously grateful for our partners who, like all of us at SMC, care deeply about building a more equitable, harmonious and respectful world,” Jeffery said.

“The Sum of Us,” published by Penguin Random House, "offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: racism has a cost for everyone -- not just for people of color," according to promotion for the book.

"Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?"

To find out, McGhee set out on a "deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm—the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others."

In an interview with Time magazine, McGhee, who is Chair of the Board of Directors of Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, explained what it will take to combat racism.

“Connecting with someone, or seeing yourself in someone, is the antidote to a phenomenon that is, in some ways, destroying America,” she said. “We need to shift people to say, ‘We’ve found the enemy, and it’s not each other.'”

“The Sum of Us” has been longlisted for the National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and voted one of the Best Books of the Year by Time, The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ms. Magazine, BookRiot and Library Journal.

Free copies of the book, while supplies last, are available to those planning to participate in the Santa Monica reads program beginning May 1. Versions of the book for adults as well as the young readers are available. For more information visit

In addition to McGhee’s keynote address, the SMC Public Policy Institute (PPI) 2023 Spring Symposium -- which runs May 15 to 19 -- will feature a number of events around the theme “From Me to We: Building Cross-racial Solidarity for a Better Democracy.”

Symposium activities include an opening talk by Prof. Ian Haney López, a screening of Derrick Bell's science fiction story "The Space Traders" with a panel discussion and audience Q&A, and a student panel discussion on race, class and solidarity.

“Whether participating in our Library’s events or joining Heather McGhee’s discussion, understanding our history and the effects of racism is a necessary part of our ongoing efforts to ensure everyone in Santa Monica can thrive,” said Mayor Gleam Davis.

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