Caste in US politics (Photo: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images).
Radhakrishna N S
By Amit Roy
IT IS easy to sympathise with the Pulitzer prizewinning American journalist, Isabel Wilkinson, who has drawn lessons for the US from her personal experiences outlined in her book, Caste: The Lies That Divide Us (Allen Lane, £20).
On one occasion, when she went to interview a shop owner in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the city’s premier commercial district, she was told to leave because he was “preparing for an important appointment with The New York Times”.
This anecdote reminds me of a black colleague whom I won’t name but we sat opposite each other for a number of years. On one occasion he, too, went to interview someone who rang the office after waiting for a while to complain: “There’s no one here.” All the while, the reporter was standing next to him.
After the Black Lives Matter movement became active again in America following the killing of George Floyd, I did wonder whether the race divisions in the country were so deep that the only solution was a partition of the US to create a separate land for African Americans.
Although this is a little far-fetched, Wilkinson has likened the cracks in American society to the caste divisions in India: “Caste is more than rank, it is a state of mind that holds everyone captive, the dominant imprisoned in an illusion of their own entitlement, the subordinate trapped in the purgatory of someone else’s definition of who they should be.”