Thursday 2 December 2021


Finished November 30
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

I bought this book more than a year ago and have been slowly reading it for the past couple of weeks. It is a book that looks at the origins of the American caste system, and how it relates to two other caste systems, the centuries-old caste system of India, and the one that arose under the Nazis. I was aware that Nazi's had studied how America treated its non-white citizens, particularly those who descended from earlier slaves, but this book made the connections more clear about how they tried to implement some of the same concepts and how the American situation went beyond in what it dared to define for castes and for how it had evolved to be ingrained in the American culture.
In India, the lowest caste is that of the Dalit, often called Untouchables. Wilkerson, on her first visit to India and meeting Dalits was introduced as one of America's Untouchables, and after the initial surprise, she had to see the similarities. 
She often gives examples of her own and others experiences to illustrate the various norms in America that arose from the caste system there, and how it is still having its effect, despite the laws and regulations that purport to eliminate it. 
Released in the last year of Trump's presidency, it is a book that is very pertinent to what the country is going through now, a test of its democracy, an awakening of those in the lower castes to the inbededness of the beliefs that have tried to keep them in their place, below the dominant caste of white European-origin males, and how the actions we are seeing today are part of a struggle to keep the system from changing. . 
This book should be required reading in every American history and culture course, as it looks at the history of the culture in a way that has seldom been explained in such straightforward terms. Wilkerson gives homage to those researchers who came before her in this area, and talks about their work and how she discovered it and built upon it. 
There is so much I could say about this eye-opening book, but the best is for you to read it yourself.

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