In "Caste: The Origins of our Discontents" by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson, we are invited to embark on a journey where Wilkerson masterfully makes the case that caste is the denominator that delineates, or attempts to delineate our lives. By connecting the caste empires of India, America, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson is contending that empire is the spine of every system of dominion. She writes, "As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not." By delving into the intricacies of individual stories, she connects the intimate to a broader narrative and underscores the utter brutality that is caste.
For our Editorial Staff member Martha Chandran-Dickerson, reading the book was a paradigm-shifting experience. In an Instagram post, part of which was reposted by Wilkerson herself, she writes, "This book led me down a trajectory. It altered my life entirely...Not knowing my caste, or not discussing caste was in itself caste privilege. Thinking of caste only in the context of Brahminical supremacy and not as Savarna supremacy was also an insidious form of complicity. I didn't know what I didn't know, because I didn't have to know…To all my Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi siblings, I lament how late I am. I lament how your dignity has been denied systemically. I promise to use my privilege to listen, lament, learn, and leverage continually.”
Join our community as we begin to consider how solidarity between our communities involves an understanding and dismantling of caste. We can start by asking ourselves, what is one specific way we can, to borrow Dr. Ambedkar’s words, “annihilate caste?”