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Caste Part two

Caste study guide -- Part 2
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Book Discussion: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

PART TWO: The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions

Chapter Four: A Long-Running Play and the Emergency of Caste in America

Chapter Five: “The Container We Have Built for You”

Chapter Six: The Measure of Humanity

Chapter Seven: Through the Fog of Delhi to the Parallels in India and AmericaR

Chapter Eight: The Nazis and the Acceleration of Caste

Chapter Nine: The Evil of Silence


In Part Two of Caste Isabel Wilkerson explores the parallels between the American and Indian caste systems. She looks at the history of black folk in the US and how the caste system developed to keep them subjugated. Further, she looks at the impact of the US on the world stage, how other societies have been influenced by its caste system models and vice versa. She asks us to consider how silence can aid the reinforcement of a caste system, such as that in place during Nazi Germany.


Wilkerson takes a look at the research into racial divides in America as viewed by the Nazis. If a modern-day equivalent were to rise again, what lessons do you think they would learn from America as it stands?


Key takeaways from Part Two are:

  • The modern-day caste system of America is a legacy that stretches back to the first Africans

to land in Virginia.

  • The idea of race is a construct designed to keep us within our caste.

  • Racism is a fluid rather than a static concept.

  • The caste system in India is not unquestioned by the lowest caste.

  • Some early-twentieth-century American concepts were integral to the Nazi regime.


These are actions suggested by the author to begin to integrate these ideas into our daily lives. We don’t plan to discuss this – but present it for personal reflection and action.

  • When you wake up every morning, consider what role you were born into.

  • Imagine what role you could play were it not for the caste you have been boxed into.

  • Reflect upon your preconceived notions of race and other divisions in our society and what you expect of people of a certain background.

  • Think about whether you enter into mob mentality, are silent when things happen that you know are wrong or whether you speak out against poor behavior even if it puts you at risk.

Part II covers pages 39-96. You might want to ask if individuals are willing to take a specific chapter to read and then present at the next meeting—in case people find this too much to read in one week. There is lot covered in each chapter, even though they are comparatively short.


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