In “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” Isabel Wilkerson asserts that America has developed an unofficial caste system designed to retain a hierarchy with white people at the top.
The book, published in 2020, posits how this system has evolved and its impact on various aspects of American life.
She argues that the US operates under an unspoken caste system that ranks and categorizes people based on race. White Americans occupy the top position, followed by Latinos and Asian Americans in the middle, and black Americans at the bottom.
Wilkerson calls for radical empathy from the dominant groups, policy changes, and social integration to help dismantle the caste system. However the process, she argues, begins with acknowledging its existence and recognizing how it contradicts American ideals of equality and justice for all.
The author contends that the caste system was constructed in the aftermath of slavery to uphold racial hierarchy in society, and continues to permeate all areas of life, including education, employment, wealth, and healthcare.
The system relies on stigmatizing racial groups to justify unequal treatment, she says.
The book emphasizes the importance of comprehending this history and addressing these issues in order to promote greater justice, equality, and opportunity, irrespective of race or ethnicity.
Wilkerson was the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, and is best known for her award-winning book “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.”
She has dedicated her career to exploring and illuminating the complex and often untold stories of race in America. Wilkerson has also served as a professor of journalism at Princeton, Emory, Northwestern, and Boston University.