Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
This book is perfection, and it should be required reading. I’d say that’s all you need to know, but it would make for one very short post.
If you’ve somehow managed to miss out on this book, it’s non-fiction. Though the book is largely about race, it also covers class and gender – the other ways we tend to label people without knowing them. The book goes through the ways that having a caste system affects, permeates and damages societies, looking at India, America and nazi Germany.
What makes this book a phenomenal read is the stories it contains. It’s one thing to read facts about lynching, but it’s another to read about a boy being shoved off a cliff into a river to drown while his father was held and forced to watch because the boy sent a valentine to a white classmate. Or that Germany actually took notes on how America managed to oppress citizens so well without public uprising and used these tactics in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Nothing I write can do this book justice. It’s a heavy read, for sure, but a worthy one. The fact is, until we take a hard look at the history of our country and how we’ve treated each other, until we really grapple with how that affects us, and until we actively take steps to do better, we won’t have any lasting change. We can’t walk towards the light unless we admit that we’re in the darkness. We can do better, but will we?
You will be challenged, you will be brokenhearted, and you will be angry. But let it change the way you see the world, and the systemic problems that keep people oppressed. But first read the book, and then pass it on.