E/RS event takes a look at economic inequality

By Morgan Miles, staff writer 
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
Author Heather McGhee (pictured above) wrote a book on economic inequality titled The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Prosper Together. This Monday, she gave a talk at an E/RS event.

The Ethics/Religion and Society Program held a panel discussion hosted by philosophy professor Dr. Richard Polt to create dialogue around income inequality. 

The event was part of the conversations across the American divide series. 

Guest speaker Heather McGhee led the inequality focused talk. Following McGhee’s talk was a discussion panel made up of Xavier faculty and students. The discussion served as time for each panelist to openly reflect or ask McGhee questions.

McGhee dove into conversation of what she considers “one of many cascading failures of leadership… is being seen right now.” 

“Failures of leadership” refers to the extreme division of Americans, not only in the realm of government and politics but in everyday life. McGhee emphasized that this is an “important moment for us to reflect on what’s beyond partisanship.” Continuous and repetitive prejudice serves as a concern for McGhee, who advocates for turning the page of our nation. 

“In order to turn the page, we need to find the sources of division,” she said. 

She connected her strong desire for change to a former job at a think-tank that helped form her views. 

While working, McGhee focused on things like racial inequality, the wage gap and why equality feels increasingly out of reach for American families. After four years, McGhee left the think-tank to pursue more sufficient answers to questions regarding inequality. 

McGhee believes the “people writing rules of our public policy are skewed and not representative of the people suffering the most from economic inequality.” 

McGhee recalled the year 2017 and shared many of her thoughts. On one hand, she found Trump’s win jarring because of our nation’s specific ideas about what leaders should emulate to become president. 

On the other hand, she felt “unsurprised” because “Trump has been saturating our media for some time” and pushing a “zero-sum narrative.” 

A zero-sum narrative now holds that if minorities are prospering, then White people’s status must be taking a hit. The zero-sum narrative supports McGhee’s goal to uncover the sources of our nation’s strongest divisions. 

McGhee believes, “it’s important to follow the money and the power and who is really benefiting from this.” 

“This” refers to inequalities driven by the zero-sum narrative. Ultimately, she concluded that “we can’t turn a page of this period without facing where this story comes from, why it’s so powerful, who’s doing it and who’s selling it.”

Carson Rayhill, a junior finance and German major, was a panelist in the discussion. He brought up a concern for the seemingly widespread acceptance of the “I do me, you do you” sentiment. Rayhill explained that this sentiment promotes the growing culture of denying basic facts in society. 

He realizes that by thinking so individually, it’ll become harder to accept or see realities in the surrounding world, such as blatant racism. 

Rayhill offered a potential solution: “As we keep going in order to find more dialogue, we’re gonna have to come away from those bubbles and come together to find some sort of real experience between one another.”

McGhee is the author of forthcoming book The Sum Of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. 

Email ers@xavier.edu with postal information to get a free copy of the book in February.