On January 18 the W.K. Kellogg Foundation hosted the sixth annual National Day of Racial Healing, a virtual event organized to uplift personal and communal narratives, celebrate community, and promote racial healing through calls for collective and sustainable change. The 75-minute event, hosted by Soledad O’Brien, featured panels, discussions, and performances designed to explore racial healing as a necessary component of racial equity.
In the final event discussion and call to action, La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellog Foundation, and Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Cost Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, discussed the “racial zero-sum” and the “solidarity dividend.” In this discussion, McGhee shared that the “racial zero-sum,” or the idea that we are not on the same team and that progress for one group necessarily comes at the expense of another group, continues to stymy American progress. McGhee states that the narrative of the racial zero-sum has been propagated by a group of social, political, and economic elites who benefit from racial divisions that prevent us from collectively reflecting on how many economic policies and social practices underserve most of us.
Conversely, McGhee argues that the “solidarity dividend,” or gains made when people come together across race, benefits everyone. An example McGhee points to as proof of the solidarity dividend is the ongoing success of the ‘Fight for $15’ movement. The movement began in 2012, when fast-food workers in New York City, predominantly black and brown, walked off the job in protest of the $7.25/hour minimum wage in a push for $15.00/hour and a union. The movement quickly spread across the nation and by 2014, Seattle became the first city to establish a $15.00/hour minimum wage. Based on the cross-racial organization's plan, the movement resulted in a $15.00 minimum wage in many states and cities across the nation, with companies like Walmart, McDonald’s, and Amazon adopting the increase even when not state or locally mandated. As a result, 22 million low-paid workers, the majority of whom are white, benefited from an additional $68 billion in increased wages.
The National Day of Racial Healing’s call for action encourages us to take steps as a community to abandon the racial zero-sum for the solidarity dividend:
- Name the racial zero-sum. In instances in which gains for racial equity are presented as having a “cost,” name this as zero-sum calculation and be explicit about who is perceived as bearing the cost.
- Challenge the basis for racial zero-sum thinking. Racial zero-sum thinking is often presented as a ‘natural’ or logical conclusion to calls for racial equity.
- Hold accountable those who would seek to benefit from the racial zero-sum. The beneficiaries of racial zero-sum thinking are always a much smaller group than those who would benefit from collective action.
- Find ways to recognize that we are really all on the same team and that we rise and fall together. Solutions that are developed based on racial equity will benefit the collective.
For more information on how to promote racial healing in your community, visit DayOfRacialHealing.org.