86 pages 2 hours read

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2020

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Part 5, Chapters 22-24

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 5: “The Consequences of Caste”

Part 5, Chapter 22 Summary: “The Stockholm Syndrome and the Survival of the Subordinate Caste”

To describe the emotional and intellectual labor caste demands, Wilkerson notes that “people at the margins have had to study those at the center of power, learn their invisible codes and boundaries” (282), to understand possible threats and tools for their own survival. Wilkerson states:

The ancient code for the subordinate caste calls upon them to see the world not with their own eyes but as the dominant caste sees it, demands that they extend compassion even when none is forthcoming in exchange, a fusion of dominant and subordinate that brings to mind the Stockholm Syndrome (282-283).

The term takes its name from a hostage situation in the Swedish city, where those captured during a robbery came to identify with those who held them captive.

Wilkerson cites a famous incident from 2019, though she identifies the protagonists only by caste and not by name. A White female police officer who murdered a Black man in his own apartment, claiming she mistook it for her own, was shown compassion from the dead man’s brother and the judge, both of whom were also Black. Around the same time, a Black man in Florida was thrown in jail for being late to jury duty, as his failure also made the deliberative body less diverse; “he alone was being blamed for the inadequacies of a system that happened not to have enough people who looked like him” (285).

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