Caste : The Origins of Our Discontent, by Isabel Wilkerson

As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of cast is not about feelings or morality. It is about power – which groups have it and which do not.” (frontispiece, Caste, 2020).

Everybody who is a resident of the United States of America should read this book.  I guarantee that it will totally change your perception of the ways that race functions in the United States to separate and rank so called racial groups and keep power in the hands of white, predominantly Christian, heterosexual, able bodied men, many of whom have inherited wealth and position. Through the metaphor of caste Wilkerson explores the ways in which race, or more accurately racism, functions to separate the two major groups in the US and to guarantee access and privilege to people who are considered white while making access and opportunity extremely difficult to access for people with more melanin. Wilkerson describes the pillars that support caste: The myth of Divine Will and the Laws of Nature,  heritability, purity vs. pollution, occupational hierarchy, dehumanization and stigma, terror as enforcement, cruelty as a means of control, and inherent superiority vs. inherent inferiority. She explains these pillars with data and with stories of individual families. If you have been listening to Michelle Obama describe the struggles of men in her family, many of these stories will have a familiar ring. Caste explains the many ways in which racism has become a permanent feature of our culture, invisible and not understood by most of us. After you read this book, you will have no trouble understanding why so many white people are afraid to discuss race and why so many Black people are frustrated and angry every day of their lives. If you read only one book about race in this horrifying period of our history, this should be the one.

If the majority knew of the root of this evil, then the road to its cure would not be long,” (Albert Einstein, quoted in Caste.)