Caste, by Pulitzer Prize winning author Isable Wilkerson, is by far one of the most intriguing, well told non-fiction books that I’ve read in ages.
As a member of a group of Americans who supports and and is activist for the Kashmiri people in India, I have long been shocked at the caste system of India. I could not fathom how one group of people could institutionally stigmatize another. Imagine my dismay when I read how engrained America’s own caste system is within nearly every instituion in our society. As Wilkerson examines systemic caste systems here in the US, in India and Nazi Germany, she lays out an argument that castes have always been part of society – but they do not have to be.
The Germans under Hitler studied the caste system in order to learn how to out-cast the Jewish people. From the very inception the founders of the colonies in the “new world” used these same ideas to marginalize the indigenous people as well as the African slaves they brought with them. FROM ITS INCEPTION the US has used this system to denigrate one group or another – from the slaves, to the Irish to the Italians and, today, the Latino immigrants and Muslims. It is through this marginalization that the “middle” and upper class maintain their power and stroke their egos.
Through rigurous documentation and research, as well as personal antedotes, Wilkerson does a marvelous job of stating her case. She then gives us hope for ways to tear down the caste system for a better, more equal future. My one drawback, as I have done in this review, Wilkerson has a tendency to set aside her objectiveness and her personal feeling come through. This made the book more readable, but it also can call into question as person’s facts. The facts in this book can and should stand for themselves.
I highly recommend, and have done so to everyone I know, Caste:The Origins of Our Discontents to all readers particularly those who want to invest in better, fairer future.