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  • Writer's pictureKaren Young

Biden calls out the "zero sum view" behind racism

Welcome to Message Monday!


I was inspired to write today’s post by Heather Cox Richardson, a history teacher and bestselling author who has a Substack newsletter called Letters From An American.  It’s definitely worth a read.


From Richardson, I learned that in his speech at a historic Black church in Charlottesville, SC on Jan. 8, President Biden had included an incredibly important message about the “zero sum” thinking that is behind much of America’s racist hysteria.  I’m hoping to hear him say this again (and again) in front of an audience who really needs to hear it – a white audience. That said, hearing it from him gave me hope.


First Biden condemned white supremacy, and attacked Trump loyalists for “trying to erase history and your future…destroying diversity, equality, inclusion all across America; harboring hate and replacing hope with anger and resentment and a dangerous view of America.”


Now the best part:  “That narrow view of America is a zero-sum view…that says, ‘If you win, I lose.  If you succeed, it must be I failed.  If you get ahead, I fall behind,’ and maybe worst of all, ‘If I hold you down, I lift myself up.’ But democracy is not a zero-sum game…[it is] a bigger and broader view of America that holds that ‘If you do well, I do well. We all do well.’ ”


Of course, calling out the zero-sum game also requires naming a villain who IS holding us all down, be it capitalism, the one percent, or however we want to define it.  This would be harder for Biden to do, but we progressives could certainly be adding that part.  Credit, of course, must go to the great @hmcghee and her book The Sum of Us, for making this case most powerfully. 



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