The old zero-sum paradigm is not just counterproductive; it’s a lie

The logical extension of the zero-sum story is that a future without racism is something white people should fear, because there will be nothing good for them in it. They should be arming themselves (as they have been in record numbers, “for protection,” since the Obama presidency) because demographic change will end in a dog-eat-dog race war. Obviously, this isn’t the story we want to tell. It’s not even what we believe. The same research I found showing that white people increasingly see the world through a zero-sum prism showed that Black people do not. African Americans just don’t buy that our gain has to come at the expense of white people. And time and time again, history has shown that we’re right. The civil rights victories that were so bitterly opposed in the South ended up being a boon for the region, resulting in stronger local economies and more investments in infrastructure and education. 

The old zero-sum paradigm is not just counterproductive; it’s a lie. I started my journey on the hunt for its source and discovered that it has only ever truly served a narrow group of people. To this day, the wealthy and the powerful are still selling the zero-sum story for their own profit, hoping to keep people with much in common from making common cause with one another. But not everyone is buying it. Everywhere I went, I found that people who had replaced the zero sum with a new formula of cross-racial solidarity had found the key to unlocking what I began to call a “Solidarity Dividend,” from higher wages to cleaner air, made possible through collective action. 

From ”The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee