Caste Quotes by Isabel Wilkerson: 4 Passages to Know

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Caste is an eye-opening reexamination of American history that pries open the lid on the country’s deep-seated racism, exposing the ugly truth about the ideology behind its making. The following Caste quotes by Isabel Wilkerson highlight some of its most insightful passages.

Keep reading for Caste quotes by Isabel Wilkerson.

Caste Quotes by Isabel Wilkerson

“Caste is insidious and therefore powerful because it is not hatred, it is not necessarily personal. It is the worn grooves of comforting routines and unthinking expectations, patterns of a social order that have been in place for so long that it looks like the natural order of things.”

According to Wilkerson in the first of the Caste quotes, the existence of caste is not the result of personal hate towards a particular racial or ethnic group. Rather, it is the product of the public unconsciously buying into the ideology behind the existing social structure so it seems like it is the natural order of things.

“Race is fluid and superficial, subject to periodic redefinition to meet the needs of the dominant caste in what is now the United States.”

The word “race” and the derivatives of “racism” and “racist” are so ingrained in our cultural vernacular that we may not understand the true nature of those words. Race in a sense of skin color is an arbitrary characteristic which is benign in other contexts. In the context of caste, however, race is used as a means to differentiate dominant power from subordinate inferiority.

“Slavery was not merely an unfortunate thing that happened to black people. It was an American innovation, an American institution created by and for the benefit of the elites of the dominant caste and enforced by poorer members of the dominant caste who tied their lot to the caste system rather than to their consciences.”

Many refer to slavery as an unfortunate chapter in America’s story, but this is not accurate. According to Isabel Wilkerson, slavery wasn’t just an event that happened in America. Slavery is the mechanism by which America was created. It was the founding ideal of this country, the bedrock of American ideology, existing longer than any other system in America to date. 

“Rather than honor supremacists with statues on pedestals, Germany, after decades of silence and soul-searching, chose to erect memorials to the victims of its aggressions and to the courageous people who resisted the men who inflicted atrocities on human beings.”

In Caste, Wilkerson draws attention to the dichotomy between the meaning attached to the Nazi memorials in Germany and confederate statues in America. Germans have kept a number of Holocaust monuments and concentration camp memorials, but they focus on remembering and learning from the events, rather than celebrating them.

Caste Quotes by Isabel Wilkerson: 4 Passages to Know

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Isabel Wilkerson's "Caste" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Caste summary :

  • How a racial caste system exists in America today
  • How caste systems around the world are detrimental to everyone
  • How the infrastructure of the racial hierarchy can be traced back hundreds of years

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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