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CASTE part four

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

PART FOUR: The Tentacles of Caste: the Origins of our Discontent

Chapter Nine: Brown Eyes versus Blue Eyes

Chapter Ten: Central Miscasting

Chapter Eleven: Dominant Group Status

Threat and the Precarity of the Highest Rung

Chapter Twelve: A Scapegoat to Bear the Sins of the World

Chapter Thirteen: The Insecure Alpha & the Purpose of an Underdog

Chapter Fourteen: The Intrusion of Caste in Everyday Life

Chapter Fifteen: The Urgent Necessity of a Bottom Rung

Chapter Sixteen: Last Place Anxiety: Packed n a Flooding Basement

Chapter Seventeen: On the Early Front Lines of Caste

Chapter Eighteen: Satchel Paige and the Illogic of Caste

Pp 167-262

GOAL: Isabel Wilkerson uses these chapters to examine some of the difficulties within the caste system and the methods by which some seek to maintain it. She looks at how those of higher caste use the lower castes for their own ends and can sometimes take drastic action to maintain their position. She looks, too at the effect that such efforts have on those who are the victims of the caste system and the consequences of subduing lower caste talent.


  1. Wilkerson interrogates the idea of scapegoating and how it is used to negate the worst effects of poverty and adverse conditions on the caste system. How have you seen people scapegoated in recent history due to their caste.

  2. In the 10th chapter, Wilkerson’s Indian scholar friend shares stories of where the caste system in India can reach some absurd lengths to preserve itself. What lengths do people in your sphere go to in order to preserve their status?


Key Takeaways from Part Four:

  • The dominant caste will go to extraordinary lengths to preserve the caste system.

  • Many take their dominant status for granted/

  • Being in the dominant caste does not exempt one from the stress and health effects of the caste system.

  • It is much easier to blame the lower caste than to find a genuine solution.

  • The overriding idea of the ‘Alpha’ is an misconception based on faulty data.

  • Caste asserts itself in everyday life.

  • Caste can assert itself from all directions not just from above.

  • A society that allows caste to dictate decision-making can miss out on genuine talent.


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

  • Beware of times you are in danger of scapegoating someone or a group of people..

  • Reconsider your ideas about ‘pack mentality’ and the ‘Alpha’, remembering that aggression is the position of an insecure individual.

  • Reject imaginary notions of bloodline ‘purity’ or race-mixing.

  • Do not let someone’s caste dictate how you make room for their potential and talent.

  • Look at the tasks and actions you perform on a daily basis and ask whether you are performing them as an individual or as a member of a higher or lower caste.


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