86 pages 2 hours read

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2020

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Part 3, Pillars 6-8

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 3: “The Eight Pillars of Caste”

Part 3, Pillar 6 Summary: “Dehumanization and Stigma”

Wilkerson calls dehumanization “a war against truth, against what the eye can see and what the heart could feel if allowed to do so on its own” (141). She calls it “programming.” It rests on a simple principle:

[…] dehumanization means you have quarantined them from the masses you choose to elevate and have programmed everyone, even some of the targets of dehumanization, to no longer believe what their eyes can see, to no longer trust their own thoughts (141).

Individuality, in these systems, is a status symbol, a “a luxury afforded the dominant caste” (142). Jews and African Americans were each collectively blamed for their country’s social ills.

Both the labor camps of slavery and Nazi concentration camps acted on oppressed people en masse, assigning them numbers in the latter case and new names in the former. Both enslaved Black people and Nazi camp inmates were denied basic nutrition while assigned difficult physical labor. Enslaved people were punished for displays of emotion about their lot, and both Dalits and enslaved African American people were punished for learning to read and write. Slave auctions often required public nudity and hours of physical inspections to remind Black people that: “Their bodies did not belong to them but to the dominant

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