I loved Wilkerson’s first book, The Warmth of Other Sons but by the time I got around to reading this book, her second, I was kind of tired of all the depressing news for the last 9 months or so. It took me awhile to get into it.
Caste: The Origins of our Discontents By Isabel Wilkerson 2020 / 477 pages Read by Robin Miles – 14h 26m Rating: 8 / social science – politics
After I did though, at about Chapter 4, about page 40 when Wilkerson delves into more specific history, it was great and I went along enjoying the book tremendously – until Part 7 and the Epilogue, from page 357 to the end, where it gets more polemic than anything. So my rating is somewhere between a 9 (the meaty middle section) and a 3 (the draggy beginning and ending). But there is more meat than mush so I gave it an 8. I still had some issues.
The history was interesting as far as it went, but mixing the chronology up as much as Wilkerson did eliminated any thought of progress between the earliest days of slavery and mass lynchings to contemporary times when good low caste people are ignored by waiters, almost deliberately (I think) obfuscates that – there’s been no progress in 500 years?
And Germany’s turn around ignores the fact that Jews were getting upwardly mobile using a variety of methods until WWI which Germany lost and for which the rising Hitler conveniently blamed the Jews (The Pity of it All by Amos Elon – 2002)
I enjoyed learning about the Indian system but imo, there’s not enough of it in the book to entirely justify the title. The caste system has been in effect there for thousands of years and although making it illegal – it’s still operative. This should have been examined more closely because it does absolutely bear on the “race” problem.
And although race/caste is certainly the basis for a LOT of our difficulties, life would not be utopian had race never have raised its ugly head. We have plenty of troubles with greed and capitalism on their own – using race is just another means to selfish ends.