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The Sum of Us: Moving Beyond the Myth of Equity as a Zero-Sum Game Heather McGhee, Distinguished Visiting Scholar

Thursday, February 1 | 6:00 PM

Graham Chapel
Graham Chapel, St. Louis, MO 63105

The Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity and our partners are proud to announce Heather McGhee as the 2024 Distinguished Visiting Scholar. Heather is dedicated to the development of solutions to inequity in America. Over her career in public policy, Heather has crafted legislation, testified before Congress, and helped shape presidential campaign platforms. Her book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, spent 10 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was longlisted for the National Book Award and Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. The New York Times called it, “The book that should change how progressives talk about race.” and the Chicago Tribune said, “Required reading to move the country forward…”. It is a Washington Post and TIME Magazine Must-Read Book of 2021. Starting at Fairgrounds Park in North St. Louis City, where a riot was sparked after the first Black St. Louis residents attempted to swim at newly desegregated pool at Fairgrounds Park, McGhee chronicles the sobering history of divide and inequity across the United States. However, she implores the reader to reframe equity, moving away from a “zero sum” mindset to an inclusive perspective in which everyone can thrive. RSVP for the event here.

The theme of CREthis year is Past as Present: Past as Present: Learning from History to Center Equity in the Future. We believe that our collective resolve must be even stronger now, especially considering the current social and political context. We believe that Heather is an ideal public scholar to speak to the contemporary challenges our society faces while helping to light the way forward to a more equitable future.

This visit is sponsored in part through funding from the Office of the Provost: Distinguished Visiting Scholar Program. Co-sponsored by the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, Clark-Fox Policy Institute, Center for Social Development, Here & NextThe Program for Public Scholarship.

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations



Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Here and Next
Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity
Event Contact


Speaker Information

Heather is an educator, serving currently as a Visiting Lecturer in Urban Studies at the City University of New York’s School of Labor and Urban Studies. She has also held visiting positions at Yale University’s Brady-Johnson Grand Strategy Program and the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. She is the recipient of honorary degrees from Muhlenberg College, Niagara University, and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

For nearly two decades, Heather helped build the non-partisan “think and do” tank Demos, serving four years as president. Under McGhee’s leadership, Demos moved their original idea for “debt-free college” into the center of the 2016 presidential debate, argued before the Supreme Court to protect voting rights in January 2018, helped win pro-voter reforms in five states over two years, provided expert testimony to Congressional committees, including a Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2017, and led the research campaigns behind successful wage increases for low-paid workers on federal contracts, as well as at McDonalds, Walmart and other chain retailers.

An influential voice in the media and a former NBC contributor, McGhee regularly appears on NBC’s Meet the Press and MSNBC’s Morning JoeDeadline White House and All In. Her 2020 TED talk is entitled “Racism Has a Cost for Everyone”. She has shared her opinions, writing and research in numerous outlets, including the Washington PostNew York TimesWall Street JournalUSA Today, Politico and National Public Radio.

Heather holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, McGhee is the chair of the board of Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, and also serves on the boards of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Open Society Foundations’ US Programs and Demos.

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