Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
by Wilkerson Isabel
Hardcover- $23.41

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns ...

Overall rating:


How would you rate this book?

Member ratings

  "Propaganda" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 08/22/20

Caste, Isabel Wilkerson, author, Robin Miles, narrator
Where do I begin? I will begin at the beginning. In the first few pages of the book, “Caste”, seems like an even handed explanation of society’s ills. When it began to describe the demands of the supremacists and the behavior of the protesters, I was sure she was describing the bullying democrats. After all, demanding that we have a woman of color as the Vice Presidential nominee is an example of the worst kind of supremacy and blackmail. I thought of the chaos in the streets of Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and Washington, of the wanton murders in Chicago, Illinois. I thought, surely she must be condemning the violence, but no, she was excusing it by justifying it because of what she insists is the existence of a caste system in America.
The book quickly descends into what it was intended to be, a piece of propaganda used to trash the Republicans, and those associated with them, as it fawns over the Progressives and their ideas for America, which will likely take them down the path of Venezuela. The book begins and ends in a hate-fest directed toward President Trump, the Republican point of view, and condemns, overtly or subtly, anything and anyone that disagrees with any of the “pillars” she presents, as sure signs of our caste system’s development, and as proof that Republicans and white people in general, especially those who supported Trump, view themselves as the dominant class and are the enemies of those they believe are beneath them in value.
The author cherry picks facts, and even misrepresents others, in order to support her thesis about the caste system she creates in the book. She insists that race is not the problem, but it is the idea that one group is superior to another that causes the problem. She advances the idea that her group is actually deserving of that honor, even as she trashes everyone else. She spoon feeds us her opinions as proven doctrine and condemns those who disagree with her premises as automatically racist or part of the dominant caste with their arrogant views about their own superiority. I found her view of her own superiority, in every example she provided, about her own life and experiences, to be over generalized and exaggerated. Many instances were interpreted by her, as racist, but didn’t really have to be. They could merely have been misunderstandings on the part of all involved. She attributes all offenses, no matter how rare, to the idea of a caste system existing in this country, similar to that of India, which I found absurd. India is a third world country and we are the leaders of the world.
Slavery was and will always be evil; there is no doubt about that. I believe that society has to move on, but apparently, she disagrees. I believe if we don’t, we remain stuck with our hate and our anger and never recover. We fought a war to end slavery. The horrendous concept of owning individuals was defeated, although in the Democrat society of the south, it lingered. So why does the author blame the right and not the left? In addition, the fact that they, and the country were unprepared for how their future would unfold,, does not prove that there is a caste system. It proves that the plan to take the slave population forward was wanting or given little thought. Eradicating the class and the color bias would be, and still is, difficult, but this book, pretending to be a well researched document, but which is based on anecdotes, will defeat any possibility of unity among people of different backgrounds if it is to be believed. This author cherry picks her evidence, regardless of whether or not that evidence accurately represents the state of affairs that exists in the United States. Comparing America to a third world country that justifies the caste system as a religion, is dishonest and disingenuous, at best.
The author has decided that if she is mistreated at an airport, by a repairman, at a restaurant, it is always because of this caste system, where the dominant class looks down on the less important class. She gives no credence to the times she is afforded more respect than others because of her accomplishments, or to the fact that she is respected far more often than the few times she is insulted. Who among us, white, black, red, yellow or any color, etc. or religion, has not been insulted at one time or another? Is that a result of a caste system or of the actions of some stupid people? I prefer to think that there are stupid people everywhere, and unless the insult is egregious, ignore it. As a Jew, I have been subjected to many insults and many lost opportunities, so I work harder to accomplish my goals. Not every insult is a crime or the result of white privilege or Brahmin privilege, but for sure, she is demanding that people of color now have that privilege at the expense of others. She is not making the case for equality and the end of what she calls the caste system, she is demanding that we forgive the travesties committed by those of color because it is not their fault, and afford them the privileges. She even goes so far as to assign the responsibility of the earlier deaths of Mexicans, immigrants and people of color to the white dominant class which somehow makes them ill and causes them to develop their illnesses and die.
The book’s message is contrived. She believes that the behavior of those who break the law is the fault of the privileged that prey upon them. She almost justifies their lawlessness by insisting that it is the caste system and white supremacy which forces them to commit crimes. Injustice makes them do it. Is there no personal responsibility for one’s behavior after decades of progress, after even the election of what was called the “first black President”, even after a body of government becomes well represented by people of color, a body represented by far more than their percentages in modern society?
The author’s narrative soon begins to seem condescending and so does the tone of the narrator reading the book to her listeners. It is almost pompous in the assumption that she is correct and anyone who disagrees is, therefore, by her definition, a racist who believes in the caste system and their own superiority. Disagree and you are guilty. She does not believe that race divides us, but rather she seems to believe that it is the idea that one group is endowed with the right to reign superior over another and that, that idea of caste is immutable, that is the real problem. That would be fine if her message did not infer that the tables should be reversed, which kind of reinforces what she calls the caste system for a different group of people.
By searching for facts to prove her theory, she disregards the mountain of facts that disprove it. How can you ignore the election of Barack Obama with a straight face and accuse the country of suffering from this caste issue? She presents her view and counts on the reader to accept it as gospel. After all, even Oprah Winfrey recommends this book and declares it should be a classic used in the classroom. Is Oprah the credible authority on this when she is one of the richest females in the world? This book will not unite us, but will actually further the cause of the current protests and disruptions of society that have become commonplace. It is unforgiving and unrelenting in its accusations of systemic mistreatment, which if I do not believe exists, makes me automatically part of the privileged caste, according to Wilkerson.
In our society, we have a black caucus, a black TV network, safe spaces for people of color, and other examples special treatment for certain segments of society, so why is that not a symptom of the caste society that perpetuates it? Aren’t the tables being turned when a demand is made to only have a female, person of color as the Vice Presidential candidate of the Democrats? Does that mean the caste system allows for the interchange of positions, not the elimination of the system? Although America has rewarded this author with success and renown, she seems unhappy with the country. Throughout the first half of the book, she cites nothing positive about this country, nothing that indicates any progress toward overcoming this “supposed” caste system. She simply seems hell-bent on proving it exists and will bridge no opposition to her theory. I am judged by her to be a white supremacist by virtue of the fact that I lucked out with the color of my skin.
I had serious doubts about my ability to complete the book. I soldiered on, because although she writes with a superior air of intellect, and seems unaware of any wrongdoing or negative behavior by her brethren, unless she believes it is justified by how they have been treated, I hoped to eventually see some sign of positive message rather than one that sought to justify or trade one supremacist group’s position for another’s. However, that never happened, in fact, it got worse as she once again trashed Trump at the end and made her true purpose of propaganda evident.
This author blames everything on Trump, using the popular talking points. Trump caused the violence we witness. Trump caused the pandemic. The Corona Virus is a disease sent round the world by China, a disease we were unprepared for because of previous administrations which left us unprepared. This author gives no credit to America for elevating Obama to the highest office, but rather says that the minorities elected him. She supports the removal of statues and the rewriting of history to wipe out the parts she doesn’t like. She supports Black Lives Matter although the effort has descended into chaos and bullying complete with violence and ancillary organizations corrupting their message. She doesn’t believe in ID’s for voting, although she cannot travel without one. She is against the electoral college and favors majority rule. According to Wilkerson, immigrants and people of color, the descendants of slaves, do not live as long as whites because white supremacy makes them sick. Using examples of education success, happiness ranking, and other ideas, without taking the size of population or demographics into consideration, she declares we are woefully lacking. If H1N1 had been as bad as the Corona Virus (and it was lucky for Obama that it wasn’t), millions, not thousands would have died. Honesty is not the strongest point of the book.
When she pointed to the fact that Einstein compared the racism in America to the Holocaust in Germany, she lost me completely. I absolutely disagree with that assessment and point to it as proof of her lack of credibility regarding the premise of this book. She alters and manipulates information without proper documentation. She wants a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with the reality of the Caste System. Isn’t that just what the country needs, another investigation? Perhaps it is what she needs to assess her book appropriately and fairly.

  "" by Nancybee1974 (see profile) 09/17/20

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 10/18/20

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 12/01/20

Mind-expanding with its detailed history of the caste system in America. Heartbreaking to learn what I did not know so profoundly as documented here. A must read no matter what color your skin is or your family’s own personal history. This boom is for all who want to continue to learn and try to understand.

  "" by KRoby (see profile) 03/17/21

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/23/21

Remember me

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.



Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...