Caste Book Summary By Isabel Wilkerson

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With Caste (2020), readers are offered an in-depth analysis of the caste system and its continued persistence in modern American society.

The book is also a comparison of class distinctions and their historical resemblance to India's caste system or Germany's WWII period.

Following this, readers are given insight into how dominant castes have embedded their beliefs, whether consciously or subconsciously, through generations of oppression.

As well as delving into topics such as maintaining social order, authors also delve into ways to break free from it - offering readers a clear understanding of the issue and advice on how to tackle this inequality.

All in all, with Caste (2020), you'll gain insight into caste systems around the world and what can be done to battle it.

Caste Book

Book Name: Caste (The Origins of Our Discontents)

Author(s): Isabel Wilkerson

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 25 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Isabel Wilkerson is an author and journalist who is renowned for her Pulitzer Prize-winning work with the New York Times.

In addition, she has been a professor of journalism teaching at such well-known universities as Emory University, Princeton University, and Boston College.

Furthermore, Isabel's previous work includes the award-winning book The Warmth of Other Suns, which demonstrates her vast wealth of knowledge on the topic.

All in all, Isabel is a highly accomplished writer with extensive professional experience which gave her the insight to write her remarkable book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Understanding The American Caste System: How Understanding The 8 Pillars Of Casteism Can Help Us End Inequality

 American Caste System

When we look at the history of racism and inequality in the United States, it can be hard to understand why lasting change is so hard to come by.

To get a better understanding of this intractable problem, let’s take a look at its deepest roots: the eight pillars of the caste system.

From there, we can see how even Jim Crow laws have their echos in Nazi policies and how America could learn from modern-day Germany’s example.

It’s time to discover just how deep the roots of inequality go in this country!

Through an exploration of the caste system and its role throughout American history, we can begin to contemplate how matters such as privilege work on a wider level.

We’ll gain insight into why reforms like Jim Crow laws were implemented, as well as their similarity to Nazi policies.

Finally, we’ll explore what lessons America can still learn from other countries tackling similar issues today.

The Difficult Task Of Dismantling Caste Systems And Achieving True Equality

Inequalities in society don’t just happen overnight.

The longer structural problems such as the caste system remain within a society, the harder it will be to fix them.

This has been seen all too often, not only in India, but also in America.

In America, African-Americans have faced discrimination and prejudice for hundreds of years, with white Americans doing everything they can to maintain their dominant position in the system.

Despite attempts by activists and social reformers to combat racism, discrimination still persists to this day.

The same is true with India’s caste system that’s been around for thousands of years.

The Dalit people who make up the lowest caste are constantly subjected to violence and ostracized by society – despite attempts to reduce discrimination through legislation and social programs.

It just goes to show that without addressing the underlying issues of inequality sooner rather than later, it quickly becomes more difficult over time – meaning drastic measures need to be taken now before things become even worse.

It Takes Race And Slavery To Explain The Depth Of America’S Caste System

The concept of race emerged in the early days of the transatlantic slave trade as a way to categorize and differentiate people.

Europeans who encountered new peoples created very rigid caste lines along racial categories, such as “white,” “black,” and other labels like “red,” “brown,” and “yellow.”

But race is an entirely arbitrary and unscientific concept.

The human genome was completely mapped in 2000, proving that all humans can be traced back to a handful of African tribes.

Skin color was used to divide and determine caste lines, even though traces of our ancestry can be found everywhere.

And this is why looking at caste alongside race and slavery can help explain the depth of America’s discontent – because it was through these racially constructed divisions that inequality within society has been perpetuated for centuries.

This also holds true today, where systemic racism and classism are still alive and well within modern societies across the globe.

It’s clear that understanding how these divisions play out in everyday life is the key to eradicating them for good.

It Is Clear That The American Caste System Has Been A Resilient Force Throughout History

American Caste System

Since 1619, African-Americans have been considered property for 246 years and free people for less than 160 years.

This long legacy of discrimination has resulted in the American caste system being resistant to change.

This is evident through government-driven efforts such as Jim Crow laws and segregation which deprived African-Americans of their rights and placed them at the bottom of the caste system.

Additionally, through redlining policy initiatives that denied financing and created zoning restrictions to African-Americans, buying homes in white neighborhoods was nearly impossible.

Social conventions were also enacted to suppress African-American freedom such as denying addressing Black men with the term “mister” and refusing to shake hands with them.

All of these measures combined have allowed this caste system remain intact for decades despite efforts made by those trying to end it.

Caste Systems Are Propped Up By 8 Pillars Including Divine Will, Heritability, And Endogamy

A caste system requires a set of foundational pillars in order to stay in place and maintain power.

In India, the basis for the caste system is largely divine will and the laws of nature, which were spoken of in Hindu texts that dictate social order.

This places the Brahmin at the top, followed by Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra and then those labeled as untouchables who are said to be paying a karmic debt and thus have to endure their low status.

In America, divine will is also used as a means of sustaining a caste-based society but often with Old Testament stories or quotes from Leviticus being incorporated into this worldview.

The second pillar of heritability states that one is born into their parent’s chosen caste, so children fathered by slavemasters wouldn’t be capable of rising above it.

Finally, endogamy is meant to control marriage and mating within one’s set caste – an enforcement seen especially brutally throughout much of America’s history.

By understanding each these foundational pillars which underpin a caste system you’re able to gain insight as to how such systems operate.

The Pillars Of A Caste System: Purity Versus Pollution, Occupational Hierarchy, And Dehumanization And Stigma

One of the pillars of the caste system is an obsession with pollution and a process of dehumanization.

This was made clear in Youngstown, Ohio in 1951 when a little league team won the championship only to find out that Al Bright, the only Black member on the team, could not actually enter the pool at their celebratory picnic.

Instead, he was allowed onto an inflatable raft and pushed around for a lap; a reminder to him and others that his kind was not considered worthy enough to touch ‘pure’ Aryan German or White American water.

This was further demonstrated by James Henry Hammond’s abhorrent comments about Blacks on the U.S Senate floor back in 1858 – that they were ideal for menial labor simply because they had low value as people.

Beyond this, groups classified as ‘inferior’ by this partcular system were often used for medical experiments and subjected to degrading treatment.

People would pay money to throw baseballs at a Black person’s head for example – just one example how generations were desensitized racial violence under such systems.

These observations demonstrate how tightly linked dehumanization and pollutonophobia are within this socially-constricrning set of beliefs; each contributing to its systemic level cruelty towards specific races seen as inferior and impure closer inspection reveals how deeply entrenched unequal rights-based on physical features still remain today.

How Stigmatization Of The Lower Castes Rely On Terror And Inherent Inferiority To Enforce Subjugation

Lower Castes

The last two pillars of the caste system are intrinsically linked: terror as enforcement and inherent inferiority.

In Nazi Germany and the US, these beliefs have long been used to control, subjugate, and demean those in lower castes.

For example, in Nazi concentration camps and Southern plantations, whippings were tools of enforcement that took place in full view of everyone else in the lower caste.

In addition to punishment, the whippings also proved to be a powerful deterrent for disobedience among the low-caste people.

Similarly, even into the twentieth century burnings and hangings were still taking place in both Germany and America; but whereas Nazi punishments were often limited to 25 lashes – American atrocities could reach up 400+ blowsto those deemed “unworthy”.

The Dangers Of Group Narcissism: How Caste Systems Damage Everyone In The System

The second half of the twentieth century brought about a lot of change for African Americans in America.

Segregation laws were challenged and civil rights legislation was passed, allowing those in the lower castes to take their rightful place in society.

This made many people in higher castes feel threatened; they felt as if their centuries-old traditions of power and authority were slowly slipping away.

Part of this threat stemmed from group narcissism, defined by social theorist and psychologist Erich Fromm as a phenomenon wherein one’s self-worth is derived from group membership and hatred toward any that differ or oppose this group.

In terms of caste systems, this meant that those in power hated anyone who was trying to rise up to their level – thus creating fear and division among them.

This type of hate can be damaging to everyone involved, causing physical health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease for those in the dominant castes.

It also brings about a dangerous form of rising fascism that has played out frequently throughout history – most notably with Nazi Germany’s embrace of racial narcissism.

We Could Learn From Germany’S Modern Approach To Memorials And Monuments

Memorials And Monuments

Monuments and memorials can play a crucial role in reinforcing or dismantling the caste system.

Just a few years ago, there were around 230 monuments dedicated to Confederate Army leader Robert E.

Lee across the US.

But if we look at modern Germany, who have come to terms with their Nazi past by putting up multiple memorials to those who were victimized by them, we see an example of how things could be done differently.

When New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed taking down a statue of Lee as well as one of Jefferson Davis, he inspired public debate which resulted in retired Marine lieutenant colonel Richard Westmoreland bringing up an important point: German people do not put up statues of Erwin Rommel even though he was a great military strategist– because they are ashamed.

Germany’s approach serves as a reminder that it is possible to remember mistakes without honoring perpetrators and promoting narrow-minded thinking or prejudice.

In Germany, thousands of markers containing individual names are embedded in the sidewalks outside the homes from which victims were taken.

Such gestures remind people everyday about individual lives lost and thus humanizes them instead of abstractions that can often lead us astray.

Breaking Caste Barriers Through Connection And Understanding

In America today, we are surrounded by heightened tensions and politics driven by the implications of ignoring structural problems that have been handed down from generation to generation where a millennia-old caste system is still wreaking havoc.

Statistics from the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted this disproportionally deadlier impact on all marginalized communities.

The key to pushing forward lies in our capacity to support those in the subordinate castes who break the barriers created by systemic exclusion and chip away at the structures that have kept it alive for centuries.

We must become agents of change in everyday situations, creating understanding and solidarity between diverse backgrounds instead of further marginalizing them with mere assumptions; while also raising awareness of its existence and consequences.

This was wonderfully exemplified when an African-American woman met her plumber, a man whose hat inferred certain political beliefs.

When she opened up about her mother recently passing away, they exchanged stories and instead of shirking his responsablity, he immediately jumped into fixing what he was hired to do – purely from their mutual understanding as individuals rather than as members of some group.

So let us actively support those who show strength in breaking boundaries between unequal circumstances and continually chip away at pillars that enforce this ages-long oppressive system.

Wrap Up

The Caste Book provides a comprehensive understanding of American society and its relationship with caste.

It explains how, while the caste system differs in comparison to India’s and Nazi-era Germany’s, it contains two main castes that prove to be equally disturbing: Whites as the dominant caste and African-Americans as the deeply subordinated one.

It also explores how government legislation has attempted to address systemic racism, only for dominant castes to fight back with much resistance.

In conclusion, it is clear that we must look beyond mere institutional racism and delve into the foundations of America’s discontent by examining its caste system.

Only when we do this can we truly understand why discriminatory outcomes still exist today and work towards a society without them.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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