Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent
Seattle Academy’s SPARRC group (SAAS Parents for Awareness, Race Relations, and Community) did a bit of summer reading followed by a two-part discussion of Isabel Wilkerson’s acclaimed book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent. In Caste, Wilkerson examines the people and history of America and how our country is shaped by social hierarchy and a hidden caste system.
Facilitated by Danae Howe, Assistant Head of Middle School, SPARRC met via Zoom in June and in August. Reflections from the group were thoughtful, varied, personal, even vulnerable – shared within an open and respectful virtual space. Their conversation touched on many points including the isolation of India’s “untouchables” as the lowest of that caste system, and how speech pattern, vocabulary, and dialect reveal caste. The Nazis’ study of America’s segregation practices and Jim Crow laws was impactful on the group, especially the Nazis’ view of America as extreme.
The conversation turned to government and society having patterns pitting groups against each other, and to zero sum gain – advantage gained at loss to another. Comfort as a privilege was discussed, especially as others face personal challenges, societal barriers, racism and prejudice. They spoke about the mental and physical toll of microaggression, and the vulnerability and victim blaming that result. Conversely, they also talked about learning to work within a system not built for you, about breaking barriers, and about taking back power by rising in the face of challenges.
More about SPARRC...
In a strategic partnership with the SAAS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department, SPARRC serves as a learning space for SAAS parents of all backgrounds to discuss matters of race and equity and their effect on our school and larger communities. Discussions focus on past and current events, through shared consumption of documentaries, books, and lectures series. SPARRC hosts special events and workshops exploring a wide range of topics and always approach discussion through the lens of race and roles as parents, guardians and community members. SPARRC encourages listening and sharing rather than instruction, working together to build a stronger and more cohesive SAAS community. To learn more about SPARRC, please contact Meg Butterworth or Rose Tatlow.