Isabel Wilkerson.

JPIC Committee Anti-Racism Project

We’ve Been ZOOMING!

Online Discussion of CASTE

Eleven RJM’s came together via ZOOM on August 10th to share their reactions, questions and insights on Isabel Wilkerson’s bestselling book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.  Following a discussion guideline provided by the province JPIC Committee, participants noted what had moved them most deeply in the accounts and examples given, spoke about insights on present day issues gained by Wilkerson’s take on USA history, and offered reflections from Ignatian Spirituality on the book’s content and call to action.

Caste is filled with stories and anecdotes illustrating what the author calls “a rigid hierarchy of human rankings,” and showing the cruelty and injustice visited upon those at “the bottom” of this hierarchy.  Speaking about these, participants in the discussion described themselves variously as “stunned,” “embarrassed,” “blown away.”  One comment reflected what many were feeling: “How could I not have known?”  And another person remarked,

“Where would we be as a society had (these oppressed people) been permitted to live their dreams?”

Near the conclusion of her book, Wilkerson writes: “You cannot solve anything that you do not admit exists,….”  In a sense, the revelations about our USA history and society have brought about a realization comparable to the grace of the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises: “sorrow, shame and confusion” in the face of our societal sins and injustices.  Now we see; now we know.  The question behind all questions was brought into the light: “What now?  What do we do with this?!?”

As part of the conversation, those taking part were asked to cite a quotation from the book, something that had particular force for them.  More than one chose the last sentence:

“A world without caste would set everyone free.”


N.B. The sheet containing the guidelines for the discussion is attached to this issue of BRIDGES.  Also  attached is the Presidential Address of Sr. Elise Garcia, OP, given last Wednesday at the opening  session of the LCWR Annual Meeting.  Sr. Elise draws heavily on data from Caste in her remarks.

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