Caste, A Legacy Worthy of Change
Caste, The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson is a beautifully written history of racism in the United States, a chronology of the significant events and ignored events documenting that our systems, including government, have never honored the equality of all. We celebrate living in the greatest country in the world, but the truth is, we are an experiment in democracy and “we the people” has never meant “all the people.”
Wilkerson points to specific periods of history, the change in our global environment, U.S. politics, our educational system, our penchant for guns and violence, our inadequate ability to provide health care for all, the history of the inequality in law enforcement, including police brutality as a few of the symptoms of our national ailment. “Looking beneath the history of one’s country is like learning that alcoholism or depression runs in one’s family or that suicide has occurred more often than might be usual... You don’t ball up in a corner with guilt or shame at these discoveries…forbid any mention of them. In fact, you do the opposite. You educate yourself…talk to people who have been through it …learn the consequences…options and treatment.. and work to ensure that these things, whatever they are, don’t happen again.”
The author has studied the caste system in India and draws comparisons between this system and racism in the United States. “In the American caste system, the signal of rank is what we call race, the division of humans on the basis of their appearance. In America, race is the primary tool and the visible decoy, the front man, for caste… Race does the heavy lifting for a cast system that demands a means of human division.”
This book is a must read for any American, especially those searching for a way to make our country a great one. Because as Wilkerson aptly demonstrates with statistics, America is not the greatest. Other countries have figured this out for ALL their people. They provide better education, better health care, and they’re happier. We can do much better, and it will be incumbent on all political parties to decide if they will focus on keeping our democracy, or whiteness.