The White Bonus
Five Families and the Cash Value of Racism in America
by Tracie McMillan
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Pub Date 23 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 24 May 2024
Henry Holt & Company, Henry Holt and Co.
A genre-bending work of journalism and memoir by award-winning writer Tracie McMillan tallies the cash benefit—and cost—of racism in America.
In The White Bonus, McMillan asks a provocative question about racism in America: When people of color are denied so much, what are white people given? And how much is it worth—not in amorphous privilege, but in dollars and cents?
McMillan begins with three generations of her family, tracking their modest wealth to its roots: American policy that helped whites first. Simultaneously, she details the complexities of their advantage, exploring her mother’s death in a nursing home, at 44, on Medicaid; her family's implosion; and a small inheritance from a banker grandfather. In the process, McMillan puts a cash value to whiteness in her life and assesses its worth.
McMillan then expands her investigation to four other white subjects of different generations across the U.S. Alternating between these subjects and her family, McMillan shows how, and to what degree, racial privilege begets material advantage across class, time, and place.
For readers of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us, McMillan brings groundbreaking insight on the white working class. And for readers of Tara Westover’s Educated and Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, McMillan reckons intimately with the connection between the abuse we endure at home and the abuse America allows in public.