86 pages 2 hours read

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2020

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Part 7, Chapter 30-Epilogue

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 7: “Awakening”

Part 7, Chapter 30 Summary: “Shedding the Sacred Thread”

Turning back to India, Wilkerson describes how a “man born to the dominant caste […] had awakened slowly to a privileged despair” (361). He recalled his initiation into Brahmin status and the wearing of a special cord to signify his proximity to divinity. It was to be worn at all times and replaced if ever stained, especially by proximity of anyone of Dalit caste. In childhood, he recalled how his father chastised one of the family’s Dalit field laborers, only to run away when the Dalit man chased him with a stick. This was a “humiliation” that brought about a mental health crisis. The man eventually saw the caste system as a false construct, that Dalits had much to teach him and much to offer the world, and that he and his family had all participated in “a lie.” He eventually removed his sacred cord and hoped that all his fellow Brahmins would come to renounce this “false crown” and experience the rebirth of shared humanity with all people. 

Summary: “The Radicalization of the Dominant Caste”

Wilkerson describes going out to dinner with a dominant caste friend she did not know well. Immediately, she noticed their waiter was “curt” to them but much more responsive to a table of all-White diners.

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By Isabel Wilkerson

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