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Caste

Caste

The Origins of Our Discontents

Book - 2020
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KCLS_RobinH May 06, 2021

Incredibly thought-provoking, and a great audiobook. Compelling evidence from around the world combined with modern experiences of what life is like when you're doomed to a lower caste, whether it be based on skin color, religion, or artificial hierarchy, making me rethink how I move and relate in the world.

a
amicedarblue
May 06, 2021

Truly an Excellent Read.
I am just shocked of how much I did not know!
This books brings an understanding of where we find ourselves today.
Everyone should have an opportunity to read this book.
I wish I could give it 6/5 stars.

t
tauseef365
May 01, 2021

This is a very important topic, and a very important book. I would recommend this to everyone everywhere. There will be a lot that is new to many readers, such as the fact that Einstein was an anti-racist. I would have liked even more about the history of South Africa and their struggles to overcome Apartheid, and how poorly America compares. I was disappointed that the book focused on the history of racism in the US, Germany and India, but barely mentioned Malcolm X. In his autobiography, he said that the first time he felt like he was being treated like a man instead of a Black man was when he went to Germany, on his way to the middle east. He also had a lot to say on the state of racism in the US that was more insightful without relying on comparisons with other caste systems. He offered a solution, too. Unfortunately, there is a lot more missing from this examination of caste, but I'll let my friends at Jewish Voices for Peace address that giant gaping hole. Glad I read it, though.

2
21288004246712
Apr 30, 2021

The popularity of Trump validates this terrible reality in the US

t
Trixie_reads
Apr 29, 2021

Really interesting and informative.

b
book27
Apr 18, 2021

Awareness of the realities described in this book is a human responsibility. I learned the most from the section outlining the consistent features between American racial hierarchy, the Indian caste system, and Nazism in Germany.

a
albaugh
Apr 16, 2021

An extraordinary evidence based look into the world we live in that everyone should read. The book provides insights into why societies continue to make the same tragic mistakes over and over. We can't hope for change unless we try and understand the reasons we all struggle and then learn from past mistakes. Will we ever be able to look beyond superficial differences to realize that we truly belong to each other and are fundamentally deeply a part of each other?

s
sweeter963
Apr 10, 2021

First impression. The idea that the Nazis were involved in a caste system speaks to poor research skills upon the author. Rosenberg is quite critical of the caste system that developed in post Aryan Hinduism.
The term Aryan is synonymous with the Germanic tribe and constitutes tribalism, which the author appears to find unappealing. I’ll need to finish the book but the first few pages have been less than impressive. I also see no connection between Nazism and racism. They are distinctly different giving that one represents a tribal survivalist nature versus poor thinking skills.

t
Tiffanypyyu
Apr 07, 2021

This book was amazing. I listened to the audiobook and it was very interesting and gripping. So relevant for the world we live in today. The author has done her research very well and laid it out in a very interesting to understand way. I recommend this book to everyone!

m
mmason0071
Mar 30, 2021

Every American need to read this book. Look at some of the negative comments to see how close she hits the mark.

d
DianeM63
Mar 20, 2021

After reading the first 100 pages I knew this was a book I wanted to own. So, I bought a personal copy on whose pages I could mark key concepts that I could go back to again and again. This is a book that will live on in my collection of what I consider to be "transformative" books. If you're not changed after reading this book, I have to wonder if your heart will ever open. And, thank you JoCo Pub Library for making books accessible.

LCPL_Vivian Mar 15, 2021

This was a topic briefly discussed in the classroom when I was still in school, and I'm sure it was only mentioned when the class talked about an event from a long, long time ago. I liked that Wilkerson discusses events that happened recently such as the United Airlines uproar in 2017. Caste is easy to read, and I'd even recommend the audiobook if you don't want to sit down and physically read it.

k
KarenDem
Mar 10, 2021

No matter what you think you know about racism, this presents so many challenges to your views.

v
voisjoe1_0
Mar 01, 2021

A mix of research and personal info about the concept of "Caste." While reading, I thought about my background - I come from a "sundown" town (a small number of blacks can enter to go fishing in the rivers, but must exit the city limits by sundown) and can only recall having conversed with one black person prior to college and then only having talked to two more black people even after attended a metropolitan university with a student body of 10,000 (later found that the university had only 4 black students). My early life was a perfect example of the why the great novel "Invisible Man" is aptly titled.

s
StarGladiator
Feb 27, 2021

Another stunningly stupid book written by an undereducated author who fancies herself highly erudite --- hardly!
Instead of seriously researching --- and studying (a nasty obscene word to the brazenly uninformed) --- voter demographics, the author chooses to express her OPINION of those who voted Trump instead of for the communists and their Maoist agenda!
Hmmmmm . . . the two Wall Street--designated choices: Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was the beneficiary of multiple fundraisers hosted for her at Martha's Vineyard by Lady de Rothschild and Jeb Bush, paid $1 million per year as a consultant to Barclays Bank, no doubt for Jeb's extensive nonexistent banking experience --- or because his brother, Neil Bush, is a nonexecutive (?) chairman of the PLA--financed Singhaiyi Group?!
Caste systems are, and have always, been the mainstay of human existence --- PERIOD!
Doesn't matter that many of us find this distasteful; water is wet and caste will exist, creating false narratives changes nothing! Equality derives from merit and meritocratic systems being attempted, however feebly. The purpose of "social equity" is to introduce communist systems, always leading --- and consciously so --- to neofeudalism -- what the planners are desiring!
The closest I have ever experienced of a merit-based system was the US military, but not really all that meritocratic. In Japan and South Korea, more homogenous cultures, academia or their school systems are somewhat more merit-based, but even then there are many discrepancies. Any who claim merit (or "math" like the Gates Foundation) is "racist" is stridently pushing the communist agenda, which both the CCP and Wall Street seek to make real!

x
xiaojunbpl12
Feb 25, 2021

The title, an argument lack of objective persuasion.
A weak aspect: resource scarcity is not perceived, it’s a reality. We live in a society/system that rewards competition, our lives are achieved. Caste won’t end, relying on human conscience. Human nature allows caste persists (e.g. we may change it from skin color to mental attributes etc...)
The book presents remarkable, extensive materials, but overwhelms readers with compassion without a concrete solution (if any) or a hope brighter than anguish inflamed candles.

I wonder,
why India's caste last,
when dynasties went under;
why Nazis caste blast
the world quick in shudder.

Chapters swell,
narration structures overlap to tell;
time and again, points made well,
salvo and burst, emotions not to quell.

Rhetoric from/for bottom rung.
empathy choked my lung:
pro justice though, align with the dominant,
my shame unsung.

I ponder,
resource scarcity is not perceived;
compete is believed, life is achieved.
Caste is always yonder,
not by divine will, is human ill.
When no one to conquer, no country with border,
but a planet to fill,
communism would be a magic pill.

j
Jan_in_Indep
Feb 14, 2021

Disappointing. The writing was disjointed, redundant, and simplistic. I was expecting a more nuanced and in-depth treatment of caste. Instead, she seems to be simply reframing race discrimination as a caste issue. I also hoped for more about the subject of caste in India, but the treatment was mostly anecdotal and superficial. The book as a whole relied far too much on anecdotal evidence; there was far too much focus on "what" instead of "why."

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2021

Find it a struggle to stay engaged in some segments in this book about the "American caste system, the signal of rank is what we call race, the division of humans on the basis of their appearance." Wish there are more on global social inequalities throughout human history. While it is an excellent history lesson and that many analogies are insightful but many are mediocre if not overstated.

Anyway, Isabel's musing in Chapter Thirty: The Radicalization of the Dominant Caste: “Imagine going through something like this almost every day, not knowing when or how it might happen. You wouldn’t last very long. ... and still get through the day.”

Her thought reminds me of Obama's "Beer Summit", and a black DC comic character Ben Turner scolds Bruce Wayne:

"You think we're supposed to give you a break because Mommy and Daddy got killed in front of you? Huh? Happens every day in my neighborhood, only it don't make the paper. You only get what you earn. And from where I'm standing, you ain't earned nothing, turkey."

a
anonymouswe
Jan 24, 2021

I was so looking forward to this book, and yet ended up so disappointed. Looking forward because we do not have enough works exploring the socio-economic caste system in our regulated capitalist economy ("the rich get richer while the poor get poorer," for the ways that is true, why is it true?). Disappointed because:
1. The book is so wordy in the worst way. Incredibly repetitive. Even the "acknowledgements" section is seven pages long!
2. Author Wilkerson opened the book with an insanely biased political propaganda recap of the 2016 election. If the author was so repetitive because she was hoping to convince those who might disagree with a flurry of opinion (can't call this book evidence, it is opinion), then opening with such political propaganda is the surest way to fail.
3. She completely misunderstands the reality of race in America, both past and present. Example, "There developed a caste system, based upon what people looked like, an internalizing ranking, unspoken, unnamed, unacknowledged by everyday citizens even as they go about their lives adhering to it and acting upon it subconsciously to this day." Let there be no mistake, this caste system based on race that Wilkerson envisions was not "unspoken, unnamed, unacknowledged." There was an African boy on exhibit in the Bronx Zoo in 1906! Without question the "Untouchable" ranking of African-Americans in the United States was spoken, named and acknowledged by most. The reason Wilkerson needs to rewrite history is because she wants to claim that "unspoken" caste system still exists today in almost full strength and zeal as it did 150 years ago. And that simply is not true.
There is no question African-Americans have been treated as a lower caste in the United States. There is no question families of African-Americans stuck in the cycle of poverty in this country are largely there because they were assigned that ranking by a very clearly spoken and deliberately planned ranking system in our culture (slavery, then freedom with no civil rights, then legal civil rights but often unenforced in reality, then job discrimination and redlining by the banks, and so on - these things were not unspoken!). To pretend we are living out today the same kind of caste system we lived out 50 years ago... is to not understand what has changed in America and what is still facing Americans in poverty today. It is clear author Wilkerson wanted to push an agenda - and she has written in a way that only those who already buy into her agenda could agree with her. She clearly misrepresents the past, as a result, I learned more about Ms. Wilkerson's agenda than I did the state of race/caste in the United States today.
This was a disappointing read for me.

STPL_JessH Jan 16, 2021

Caste is excellent. Absolutely excellent. Wilkerson writes in clear, accessible language that is both critical and convincing. This book will make it very difficult to "turn away" or ignore the realities of racism: its history, and current influence. I really appreciate the way Wilkerson explores the connections between racism and caste systems. Her explanation makes so much sense that I thought "of course! Why haven't we been talking about society in this way all along?!" I kept reading and Wilkerson answered that question. I thought she provided an excellent mix of public and personal examples and I really respect the privacy she affords the people she describes. I highly recommend this book. If you are reading currently (January 2021), know that there are many, many online opportunities to engage with Wilkerson (and other experts who are impressed by her work). There are webinars, live talks, and other virtual events. If you love the book and want to hear more, follow her on social media.

a
arewin
Jan 11, 2021

Rated the book 4.5/5 because I think more people should read it. But it was a tough read. It is one thing to be "know" there is discrimination today, but something else to be confronted with the descriptions in this book.

s
shelbylynne
Dec 26, 2020

As far as sociological/historical books on racism go, this was not my favorite. I found the stylized narrative to be distracting, and the rhetorical flourishes made me cringe. "The ash rose from the crematorium into the air, carried by karma and breeze" is the kind of sentence you expect to find in an undergrad creative writing class, not in a book by a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. It, like many sentences in this book, is painfully overwritten, and instead of leading the reader to an organic emotional revelation through good writing, it tells us what we should be feeling via its plodding language.

Additionally, Wilkerson's tendency to strip names & identifying details from her real-life examples of caste in action gave them a gauzy, unrealistic air. To be clear, I do not think she made anything up, but the way they were presented made them feel made up, like they'd been manufactured to illustrate a point in the hopes that a parable would have more emotional impact than a bare-bones fact of life. As someone who grew up hearing sermons every Sunday morning in which an evangelical preacher artfully plucked stories from books, movies, and news headlines and whittled them down to their bare-minimum components in order to make his point, I found this style frustrating. It felt like I was being led along a path of pre-labeled emotions, rather than invited into a re-visioning of history that challenged what I've previously learned.

I also wish Wilkerson had been more specific in describing this American caste she spent an entire book talking about. As it is, we have white people on top and Black people on bottom, with other marginalized groups an amorphous jumble in the middle that she remembered to mention when it served her point. It is not one person's job to write the be-all, end-all account of racism in America, but a little more definition would have gone a long way. I was particularly frustrated with the way indigenous people were left pretty completely out of the narrative, save for a couple off-hand mentions of genocide here and there. (This is not a new practice; had I not been reading An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States at the same time, I'm not confident I would have noticed it, so thorough is the colonizing tendency to erase Native history.)

In conclusion, I'm sure many people will find this book helpful; the chapters on Germany and the way the Nazis studied American society to devise a way to make white supremacy legal were eye-opening, and I don't regret the time I spent with it. Overall, though, it's a bit of a disappointment. If you're going to read it, I'd encourage picking up Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, Good Talk by Mira Jacob, and any book in the Re-Visioning America series to read alongside it

IndyPL_SteveB Dec 25, 2020

If you are trying to understand the racial and class divisions in the United States today, this would be an excellent first book. It is well-organized and researched; but just as importantly, it is readable and interesting. Wilkerson’s first book, *The Warmth of Other Suns*, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and was a best-seller. *Caste* is one of the best basic books for you to understand not just racism but the many ways in general that human societies set up hierarchies. In a hierarchy, some people are higher and some people are lower. In a *caste* hierarchy, those roles are set up from birth; so no matter how smart or beautiful or successful or rich individuals may be, they can never completely go beyond their caste level.

For most of us, the word “caste” evokes the formal class divisions in the Hindu society of India, where anyone born as a Brahmin takes precedence over all other levels. But it is not just India. The United States clearly has had such a caste system for more than 400 years. The system has been set-up so that the artificial class of “whites” are the upper caste, with various “lower forms” of “near-whites” (Italians, Irish, etc., depending on the time period), Asians, Hispanics, and Jews, fighting for spots in the middle. But always on the bottom are the Native Americans and the African Americans. As much as we try to deny it and as much as many people have tried to reform the system, it continues in mutated form today.

For me, the biggest surprise from Wilkerson’s book is that the early planners of Nazi dominance in Germany before World War II modeled their own caste system – where Jews were placed in the outcaste roll – on their visits to the United States to study the Jim Crow system of the 1920s and 1930s. Apparently the German leadership was later mystified about why Americans called the Germans prejudiced and actually joined the Allies.

This book will make you look at yourself and our country in a very different way.

x
xiaojunbpl12
Dec 16, 2020

The title, an argument lack of objective persuasion.
A weak aspect: resource scarcity is not perceived, it’s a reality. We live in a society/system that rewards competition, our lives are achieved. Caste won’t end, relying on human conscience. Human nature allows caste persists (e.g. we may change it from skin color to mental attributes etc...)
The book presents remarkable, extensive materials, but overwhelms readers with compassion without a concrete solution (if any) or a hope brighter than anguish inflamed candles.

I wonder,
why India's caste last,
when dynasties went under;
why Nazis caste blast
the world quick in shudder.

Chapters swell,
narration structures overlap to tell;
time and again, points made well,
salvo and burst, emotions not to quell.

Rhetoric from/for bottom rung.
empathy choked my lung:
pro justice though, align with the dominant,
my shame unsung.

I ponder,
resource scarcity is not perceived;
compete is believed, life is achieved.
Caste is always yonder,
not by divine will, is human ill.
When no one to conquer, no country with border,
but a planet to fill,
communism would be a magic pill.

m
mrjor1e
Dec 11, 2020

Very helpful in providing context for the present deep divisions in American society.


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