Review: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. By Isabel Wilkerson. Random House. 476 pages.
In Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson argues with devastating eloquence that the pervasive racism in our country is inextricably rooted in yet another poisonous system: caste. Over centuries, this toxic entwinement has become so deeply set in society that we’re no longer conscious of how much it distorts our thoughts and behaviors, particularly the way we relate to one another and regard ourselves.
Using history, psychology, sociology, and economics, Wilkerson presents an all-encompassing analysis of the enduring impact of race- and caste-based bias, prejudice, and mistrust. She examines the motives and belief systems of those who deny or justify the legacy of racial inequalities, and looks at the rage, fear, and resentment that fuel extremist groups. Most of all, she demonstrates just how exhausting and demoralizing it can be to be a person of color in America, constantly subject to negative assumptions, presumptions, and suspicions.
As a Black woman, Wilkerson has experienced and witnessed too many times the impact of what she calls the “tentacles of caste.” She writes, “You know that working twice as hard is a given.…