‘Caste’ by Isabel Wilkerson and Me

By Donald A. Collins | 22 September 2020
Church and State

(Piqsels, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The front page book review in August 10, 2020 New York Times Book Review section was not a surprise to me as I had been extolling the power of its message to family and friends ever since reading its message about our American caste system when it first came out!

Who better to recognize its validity than a prime beneficiary of our caste system—ME!

Of course the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has highlighted her remarkable influence on enhancing justice against existing prejudice!

Born into an almost all white Western PA city, my contact with African Americans was only the day help we got from Pauline Russ who came once a week to help my handicapped mother when my father volunteered for WWII service after Pearl Harbor. Mother had lost use of her left arm and hand from a paralyzing birth accident when my sister was born.

Pauline became almost like a family member but we never acknowledged her centrality to making our life better other than her meager weekly wage, belying the fact of my fond memories of her now 70 years later. I really never as a 10 year old saw anything about her color or status.

But clearly my whiteness and my family’s comfortable middle class position sped me forward to not an especially earned acceptance at a top university, an officer’s rank in the US Navy (the Korean War meant I enlisted to avoid the draft) and afterwards a start up the corporate business ladder after my navy service.

That service then insured my tuition from the GI bill to allow me to gain an MBA at NYU and a good job offer back near my home town in Pennsylvania.

In short every move was greased by my whiteness in a world which Caste so eloquently documents.

The presence of so many distinguished black citizens today shows how remarkably so many overcame the wrongs Caste describes.

Take any position in our society from President on to sports—Tiger Woods—to writers like Wilkerson and Toni Morrison and their ability to survive and then thrive despite this caste system should only draw our intense admiration.

My marriage at age 45 into a wonderful Jewish family initially sped my rapid comprehension of Caste’s verity. Certainly following my wife’s death in 1992 and my marriage into another partly Jewish family was central in allowing my present strong belief in Caste’s thesis.

This Caste thesis will soon get a partial initial test this November when following the murder of George Floyd we saw how blatantly racism manefested itself in real black lives.

If Trump’s brand of racism and class classification is allowed to stand, Americans are in real threat of greatly diminishing our democracy.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Kindle Store

‘Caste’ author Isabel Wilkerson on America’s race and class hierarchy

What the Nazis Learned from Jim Crow: Author Isabel Wilkerson on the U.S. Racial Caste System

The Racist Origins of U.S. Law

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Greatest Threat to Our Democracy

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