A Review of
Is Our Desire, “To Do Better,” Causing Racial Tension?
Have you ever said, “There but for the Grace of God go I”? Yes, many times is how most answer. Personally, I have said this upon seeing others less fortunate. Someone without shoes, legs, sight, or possibly homeless?
You pass someone ‘less fortunate’ and ‘think it’, even if you don’t ‘say it’. Behavior psychologists say, “It’s normal to feel sympathy for those less fortunate.” Actually, it may not be sympathy. Instead, it may be pity, as subconsciously holding yourself in a higher than others is often done to make us feel better about self.
Isabel Wilkerson’s book, CASTE – The Origin of Our Discontents.
A beautifully written and historically documented book. An eye opener in so many ways. But the biggest for me was: Considering ourselves better than another is not racist, it’s CASTEST, and We live in a CASTE World today.
We evolve to be better
We, as individuals, either by nurture or nature, have an essential need to ‘do better’. To grow, progress, evolve. Logically, we think ‘self-improvement’, or a better self. Herein lies a problem, as I see it. Most of us don’t love ourselves. Therefore, cannot see improvement in self. To satisfy the need to ‘do better’, we use others as a gauge so we can say, “I am not great, but I’m better than her/him.”
Not loving ourselves, we use comparison to define our progress. By having someone to be better than makes us, unconsciously, feel better about self; better house, car, boat, job, family, wardrobe, bank account, perceived skin color, etc.
It’s not a Black & White problem
It’s how the world and its population, religions, political parties, governments, schools, and societal strata categorize others; Better Than/Less Than.
This custom of comparison can be traced far back in history. Think Survival of the Fittest, Alpha Wolf, and Pack Mentality. In every Society there has always been the Haves and the Have Nots.
Control Creates Caste
A caste system is a way to control, govern, categorize, and use people for the benefit of those who believe they are better than, resulting in a hierarchy in Pyramid form of few at the top and many at the bottom. Those at the bottom always have less by comparison with those at the top.
India’s Caste System
When I first heard the title, Caste, I, like many of you, immediately thought of India. Isabel Wilkerson details much about India and its Caste System along with its centuries old well-defined rules. She writes in particular how the people of India accept their caste and its limits. They do not act or live above, and certainly not below, their caste.
What little I know about India and its religious belief is it’s based in part on Karma and repeating their lives through reincarnation. Each reincarnation is an advancement. They believe that each life they live must be the best life they can within the limits of their caste, so that in their next life they’ll progress to a Caste of a higher level. Please forgive my oversimplification.
The German Model
Isabel Wilkerson writes how Nazi Germany, when plotting to exterminate the Jews, used the Jim Crow Laws of America’s Deep South as its model. When determining what percentage of Jewish blood made one a Jew, they cited a North Carolina Law. It said, “One drop of Negro blood makes one a Negro.” Even the Germans said, that’s too severe and they backed off, deciding 1/16 Jewish makes one a Jew. My stomach turned to think Nazi Germany used America as its model in the annihilation of 5.4 million Jews.
CASTE digs deep into Black History
…its origin, its pain, its degradation of humanity, and its continuance. She tells stories that chill the most hardened of us. She outlines how Casteism is alive in 2020! How we in America have made it a Black and White thing. Nowhere, outside of the US, are people referred to as Black and White. You’re Yugoslavian or Ugandan or Belgian or Russian or Latvian or Egyptian. Color is not used. That is purely a US thing.
When people are told, “You’re not as good as someone else”, or treated as less than in the most demeaning ways, looked down upon by everyone they encounter, generation after generation after generation, they begin to believe it. If not… you’re beaten within an inch of death in front of your Caste, your spouse, your children. If that doesn’t work, then they have your spouse or children lash you. Spirit broken, you accept your Caste and the few crumbs that you’re given to survive.
We Live in A Caste Society
Even in a society whose Constitution says, “All Men Are Created Equal”. EQUAL is not enough. They must have someone to be better than. An established class that says YOU are not as good as ME.
Competitive Spirit Fuels the Fire
“Better Than” is the Gas that fuels the fire of our Sports Obsessed World. “Our Team’s the Best” we yell, then Boo our opponent. SOX over the Diamondbacks, Titans over the Chiefs, Muslims over Infidels, Protestants over Catholics, California over Texas, Democrats over Republicans.
Think of the millions of competitive matches we have today where each side believes to their core that they are better than their opponent. The 2020 political race is an astonishing example of Better Than; Family fighting Family, friends fighting friends, and not just kindly jabs. It’s a knockdown, drag out world! It’s not Color, its Caste!
Years of Oppression
The current Race Riots are not the cause of unrest, they are the of years of oppression. What will be their result? I believe one of three things:
One, highly unlikely, the broken souls accepting their CASTE.
Two, all out revolt.
Three, we all work to understand how we create CASTE by judging others as ‘less than’. This, in turn, CASTEs us, as we then give control to those we CASTE as superior. It’s not Black/White, it’s Inferior/Superior.
“Caste is not a physical object like a wall of bricks or a line of barbed wire,” the Dalit leader Bhimaro Ambedkar wrote. “Caste is a notion; it is a state of the mind,”.
Wilkerson says, “We are not personally responsible for what people who look like us did centuries ago. But we are responsible for what good or ill we do to people alive with us today. We are, each of us, responsible for EVERY DECISION WE MAKE THAT HURTS or HARMS another human being.”
This book is moving, both in how it’s written and what it says. Please dear family, friends, associates, and FaceBook friends, do yourself and the world a favor and read this timely book.
Love and Peace Rossi