Caste was the second book I read by Isabel Wilkerson and I was super happy I did. The book itself weaves in history and current-day challenges seamlessly to understand how we as a country have been an influence abroad, and what we need to deal with internally as a nation if we want to move forward.
Wilkerson compares and contrasts the major caste systems of history and today, including the United States, India, and Nazi Germany. Before I read this book, if I heard the word caste I would have an abstract thought back to a high school history class where we briefly discussed India, and the varying levels of caste and the untouchables. The concept of caste is more than just an after in the classroom at McHenry West Campus, it is a construct that has reached across the world and is more common than you would think. This book focuses on the three mentioned above but it does a good job of explaining what caste is, why it is so hard to get rid of, how you can combat it, and why, the United States (hi, us) is so reluctant to confront the history it has sown and dismantle the caste system that still runs rampant. This is made evident when you compare the United States caste system and that of Nazi Germany resonated because unlike Germany which has acknowledged, accepted, and worked to rectify history, the United States hasn’t, and in fact, is facing even more challenges of coming to terms with its history with the debate/hysteria around teaching Critical Race Theory.
The moral of the story is, we can’t expect our country to be stronger if a caste system that has remained in place for hundreds of years and isn’t confronted is just swept under the rug. In the book, Wilkerson says “we are the heirs to whatever is right or wrong with it. We did not erect the uneven pillars or joists, but they are ours to deal with now. And any further deterioration is, in fact, on our hands.” which speaks to where we are in the year 2022
This book is a must-read for anyone looking to better understand why people feel that burying their head in the sand is more important than acknowledging imperfections, ie keeping the status quo goes deeper than you would think.
This review doesn’t do it justice, just read the book!
“Like other old houses, America has an unseen skeleton, a caste system that is as central to its operation as are the studs and joists that we cannot see in the physical buildings we call home. Caste is the infrastructure of our divisions. It is the architecture of human hierarchy, the subconscious code of instructions for maintaining, in our case, a four-hundred-year-old social order.”- Caste
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