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CASTE Guide six

Part Six Study Guide. Caste
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Book Discussion: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

PART SIX: Backlash

Chapter Twenty-Five: A Change in the Script

Chapter Twenty-Six: Turning Point and the Resurgence of Caste

Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Symbols of Caste

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Democracy on the Ballot

Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Price We Pay for a Caste System

GOAL: This section looks back to the election and subsequent reaction to the presidency of Barack Obama. It looks at how, far from resolving the issue of caste, it stoked long-simmering resentments in the lowest rung of the dominant caste, something which would later be capitalized on by Donald Trump. It shows how extreme the response can be from the dominant caste when its position and the symbols that represent it are threatened. In may ways, it resolves some of the questions put forward by the election of Trump and explains much of the hysteria and dire events of the last decade.


  1. The first chapter in this part looks at the challenges faced by the USA’s first African-American president and the expressions of the caste system that frequented his encounters with other members of the government. Do you recall any reactions you were aware of locally of backlash against having a “black family in the White House?”

  1. Those who benefit the most from the caste system, generally the dominant caste, often have extreme reactions if that system is subverted. Try to remember times you have seen those of a dominant caste react in rage or despair to something you deem quite ordinary. How was that situation diffused? If it wasn’t, how could it have been?


Key Takeaways from Part Six:

  • The election of Obama did not dispose of the caste system.

  • Obama himself often had to grapple with the problems of caste. (remember the birth certificate fiasco?)

  • The dominant caste will always seek to retain its dominance.

  • The landscape, both cultural and physical, is populated with symbols of the dominant caste.

  • The dominant caste will sometimes do self-destructive things to maintain their status.


These are actions suggested by the author to begin to integrate these ideas into our daily lives. They are offered for personal reflection and action

  • Consider the reasons you might challenge someone in authority—are they genuine reasons or do you have a subconscious need to control them?

  • Considering how extreme some reactions have been to the subversion of the caste system, how would you explain the need for the removal of symbols to those who would seek to defend them?

  • Be vigilant in the future, to what people are prepared to do to others and to themselves in order to preserve their status. This is a lesson that can be learned from 2016. (and 2020!)

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