Racism. Racist. Racial inequality. These words can stir deep emotion from most being accused of such malignant behavior.
But Caste, this word is so easily dismissed by Americans as something from another time or another place. Caste is something that happens in India and we shake our heads in judgement. Caste happened in South Africa…”but that has changed right?” we might ask at a dinner party.
Try as we might to separate ourselves and our current state from our history, it is not possible. It also is not helpful or healthy. Not to those of born in the dominant caste (whites) or those who hover in the lowest caste (blacks) trying to find relief. Never has this been more visible than in the years that have passed since the first black president left his post and an unqualified, undignified member of the privileged cast took office and was openly willing to side with racists (good people, stand by, go home – we love you – you are special) and those who fear their own caste position may be at risk.
The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power – which groups have it and which do not. It is about resources – which caste is seem as worthy of them and which are not, who gets to acquire and control and who does not. It is about respect, authority, and assumptions of competence – who is accorded these and who is not.
It is estimated that by 2024 demographics in the United States will be upended, leaving whites in the minority. That, in addition of the elevation of a black man to the highest office in the land in 2008, seems to have put the entire dominant caste on notice and scared them into bringing their racism and nationalism out of the dark. White women in particular…the caste to which I was born…should be (but the karens are not) ashamed of themselves. Having gotten the most benefit of any group of the civil rights movement, their fears and tears continue to be a catalyst for putting men like Trump in power (grab them by the pussy, move on them like a bitch, horse-face, nasty woman, if she can’t satisfy her husband how can she satisfy America, no longer a 10, not hot) to the detriment of women everywhere.
Wilkerson writes the book beautifully with facts, research, and compelling narrative that draws you in as a reader, makes you put the book down to mourn, and if you are white and have a heart, makes you stop to consider how you have played a role and how you can stop participating in this caste system.
Even the longest lived of our species spends but a blink of time in the span of human history. How dare anyone cause harm to another soul, curtail their life or life’s potential, when our lives are so short to begin with?
For me, the heartbreaking facts that point to how American enslavement and Jim Crow terrorism gave rise to the idea and ideals of Hitler’s Nazi regime is a reminder that the world is watching. What will we do differently? What we will learn from the Germans who do not put up statues to evil men? What will we say to a world who needs to hear us admit that our “exceptionalism” was built on the backs of those we considered only partly human and gave the dominant caste a perpetual “leg up” on life?
The world is watching…we must respond.
With our current ruptures, it is not enough to not be racist or sexist. Our times call for being pro-African-American, pro-woman, pro-Latino, pro-Asian, pro-indigenous, pro-humanity in all it’s manifestations. In our era, it is not enough to be tolerant…Every spiritual tradition says love your neighbor as yourself, not tolerate them.