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Our second book club selection was Caste, and our Book Club members are still digging into this very complex book.
Like I did with Untamed, our first book club selection, I thought I would bring our Caste book club questions here so other people can enjoy them as well. I found it very challenging to craft questions for this book. The material is wonderful, rich, deep, and complicated, and as a white woman, I wanted to bring an anti-racist perspective to everything as we discussed the book.
You can read the announcement for this book, why I picked it, and more about the book itself and the author right here.
Without further ado, here you go:
Caste Book Club Questions
1. Wilkerson writes about the difference between casteism and racism. A caste is a system of hierarchy in which people enjoy varying degrees of superiority or forced subjugation based on what caste someone belongs to. How have you seen or experienced the American caste system?
2. Unlike castes, class can change with marriage, money, employment, etc. How have you witnessed class changes in your own life?
3. Race is a new concept. Irish, Italians, Poles, Czechs, and more became white for the first time in America. Either knowing this or learning this, how does this affect conversations about race you have witnessed or been part of?
4. Did you study Jim Crow laws or redlining in any American history class? If yes, how old were you and what class was it? If not, how does this information inform your perspective on current events around housing, evictions, mass incarceration, and police shootings?
5. James Baldwin said: “No one was white before he/she came to America.” Discuss what this quote means to your understanding of our current caste system.
6. One of the pillars of the American caste system is heritability, and the American system determined that the caste of a person went through the mother’s lineage. This allowed slave owners to continue to rape their female slaves and allow their children to remain slaves. Know this, how is your opinion of the American mass incarceration system affected (with 7 to 1 Black men incarcerated compared to white men).
7. Was the information about the “Purity vs Pollution” pillar new to you? How does it change your perception of American community pools and private swim clubs?
8. Is the concept of “give the wall” (lower caste stepping out of the way for upper caste) new to you? How have you experienced this in your life?
9. Erich Fromm wrote about how group narcissism – membership in a larger group determines self-worth, hatred of others, and belief in one’s own self-importance – leads to fascism. How has that played out in America in the last few decades?
10. Did you know that Nazis developed their laws regarding Jewish people, gypsies, and other undesirables by observing and implementing American caste laws? When did you learn this?
11. Germans are ashamed of their Nazi history in a way Americans are not ashamed of slavery. Why do you think Germany was able to humanize their victims and develop laws to enforce “never again” while America still has statues of Lee and Confederate flags?
12. How has the pandemic shifted how you feel about the American caste system? What was unseen for you that is now seen?
And that is that! Those are the book club questions we worked through while reading Caste.
We welcome you to join us for our next book club selection, Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey.
If you want to read the book club questions provided by the publisher for Caste, you can read those here.