Author Topic: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents  (Read 8839 times)

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5387
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #105 on: May 14, 2021, 11:51:05 AM »

The following two statements are both true: America has a serious problem with caste, manifested in terms of race/color, that makes it extremely difficult for the bottom caste ever to rise. America is the least racist multi-ethnic country in the history of the world and a beacon of opportunity to all people regardless of race or class. You think Fienen is forgetting the truth of the first statement. He would simply like it noted that the second statement is also true. Usually progressives blame it on "white fragility" whenever anyone offers even mild pushback against the claims of books like Caste.
I'm curious about the foundation for the bolded claim. What other countries in history in the United States being compared with here? I don't know anyone who would say it is the most racist, but you claim it is the least racist, not only at present, but ever in the history of the world. All the South American countries are multi-ethnic; so is Canada. There is racism in all of them, even Canada. But the U.S., you say, is (and must always have been, seeing as you add "in the history of the world") less racist than any of them. That's a big claim.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Dan Fienen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 12771
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #106 on: May 14, 2021, 12:02:33 PM »
I am cynical enough to be leery of any statement that something is the best or worst of its kind. During this millennium so far we have had people tell us that each current president is the best or the worst president that we have ever had. Not even close on either extreme. To say that America is the least racist country is likely a stretch. I don't even know how one would begin to quantify such a statement or what metric one could use. The same for saying that we are the most racist.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5387
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #107 on: May 14, 2021, 12:04:01 PM »
I am cynical enough to be leery of any statement that something is the best or worst of its kind. During this millennium so far we have had people tell us that each current president is the best or the worst president that we have ever had. Not even close on either extreme. To say that America is the least racist country is likely a stretch. I don't even know how one would begin to quantify such a statement or what metric one could use. The same for saying that we are the most racist.
You and I are in agreement on that.  :)

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Donald_Kirchner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 11776
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #108 on: May 14, 2021, 12:10:14 PM »
And, again, we must feel guilt and apologize for being a white male "protestant" with a job.   ::)

No. It's recognizing that I had privileges and opportunities because of my race and my parent's position in society ("caste"?) that others did not have.  I remember checking a sociology book in high school and dad's income put him in the top 5% in America. Granted, it wasn't great by today's standards, but back in the 60s, my two brothers and I each got a car from our parents. We all got through college, and two of us graduate degrees with no college debts. I don't believe that I have to feel guilt or apologize for that; but I have to recognize that we were privileged.

How so because of your race? And I suspect that your parents worked very hard to reach their "position in society," rather than merely because of their race. I recall that one of your parents is/was Jewish, i.e., from a "caste" that suffered substantial and even horrible discrimination over the centuries.

You then go on to undermine your point above. Did your parents lose everything because of their race?

At the same time, my parent's status changed fairly quickly when the businesses they owned went broke and they had to file for bankruptcy protection. They had used their savings to try and save the business. They went from living in a nice, new house in an over 55 development; to living in a fifth-wheel trailer. They had to sell their pick-up (their only vehicle) in order to buy the property in the park where their trailer was located. (An uncle gave them his old vehicle, so they had something to drive.) They went from being a high wage earners, to living on their social security.

I don't know if it's in the book, but I think in America there is some fluidity between the castes.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2021, 12:12:01 PM by Pr. Don Kirchner »
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but itís not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5387
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #109 on: May 14, 2021, 12:27:42 PM »
At least once in the thread the year 1619 has been mentioned. I happen to be at the point in Wilkerson's book where she talks about 1619. I can't copy-type all that she says, but in August 1619 a settler John Rolfe makes "the oldest surviving reference to Africans in the English colonies in America, people who looked different from the colonists and who would ultimately be assigned by law to the bottom of an emerging caste system. Rolfe mentions them as merchandise . . . The ship 'brought not anything but 20 and odd Negroes . . . which the Governor and Cape Merchant bought for victualles.'
     "Historians do not agree on what their status was . . . .
     "With the first rough attempts at a colonial census, conducted in Virginia in 1630, a hierarchy began to form. Few Africans were seen as significant enough to be listed in the census by name . . . The Africans were not cited by age or arrival date as were the Europeans, information vital to setting the terms and time frame of indenture for Europeans, or for Africans, had they been in the same category, been seen as equal, or seen as needing to be accurately accounted for.
     "Thus, before there was a United States of America, there was the caste system, born in colonial Virginia. At first, religion, not race as we now know it, defined the status of people in the colonies. Christianity, as a proxy for Europeans, generally exempted European workers from lifetime enslavement. This initial distinction is what condemned, first, indigenous people, and, then, Africans, most of whom were not Christian upon arrival, to the lowest rung of an emerging hierarchy before the concept of race had congealed to justify their eventual and total debasement."
That is Wilkerson's take on 1619. HTH

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

peter_speckhard

  • ALPB Administrator
  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 18098
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #110 on: May 14, 2021, 01:04:07 PM »

The following two statements are both true: America has a serious problem with caste, manifested in terms of race/color, that makes it extremely difficult for the bottom caste ever to rise. America is the least racist multi-ethnic country in the history of the world and a beacon of opportunity to all people regardless of race or class. You think Fienen is forgetting the truth of the first statement. He would simply like it noted that the second statement is also true. Usually progressives blame it on "white fragility" whenever anyone offers even mild pushback against the claims of books like Caste.
I'm curious about the foundation for the bolded claim. What other countries in history in the United States being compared with here? I don't know anyone who would say it is the most racist, but you claim it is the least racist, not only at present, but ever in the history of the world. All the South American countries are multi-ethnic; so is Canada. There is racism in all of them, even Canada. But the U.S., you say, is (and must always have been, seeing as you add "in the history of the world") less racist than any of them. That's a big claim.

Peace,
Michael
Admittedly it is merely an assertion and hard to quantify. And part of it goes to the sheer variety of ethnicities here that tend to get along while being at at other's throats where they came from. I would be glad to consider any proposed contenders. Canada would be interesting, though I think their ties to British colonialism long after our independence would complicate matters. You could make a case that a few other nations in the history of the world did better than we do, but I can make a list ten times as long of nations that have done worse. The point is that ethnic/cultural conflict is part of the human condition, not an American problem. In fact, it is an area in which we compare favorably to all (or a large majority of) other nations.

The reason it matters is that the critics tend to favor wholesale deconstruction rather than building on success. Thus, they downplay the success and focus entirely on the flaws.

It is like a football team deciding whether they can make a Super Bowl run with a few changes to the lineup they already have in place or whether they should go into full rebuilding mode. It makes a pretty big difference how good the team was last year. The CRT folks want America to go into full rebuilding mode because country as constituted is flawed to the core and needs wholesale changes. Conservative focus on the relative success because we want to build on that, not denying the flaws but also not rejecting what has worked.   

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 43483
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #111 on: May 14, 2021, 03:25:53 PM »
And, again, we must feel guilt and apologize for being a white male "protestant" with a job.   ::)

No. It's recognizing that I had privileges and opportunities because of my race and my parent's position in society ("caste"?) that others did not have.  I remember checking a sociology book in high school and dad's income put him in the top 5% in America. Granted, it wasn't great by today's standards, but back in the 60s, my two brothers and I each got a car from our parents. We all got through college, and two of us graduate degrees with no college debts. I don't believe that I have to feel guilt or apologize for that; but I have to recognize that we were privileged.

How so because of your race? And I suspect that your parents worked very hard to reach their "position in society," rather than merely because of their race. I recall that one of your parents is/was Jewish, i.e., from a "caste" that suffered substantial and even horrible discrimination over the centuries.

You then go on to undermine your point above. Did your parents lose everything because of their race?


I thought this was a discussion about castes, not race.
"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

peter_speckhard

  • ALPB Administrator
  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 18098
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #112 on: May 14, 2021, 04:38:08 PM »
And, again, we must feel guilt and apologize for being a white male "protestant" with a job.   ::)

No. It's recognizing that I had privileges and opportunities because of my race and my parent's position in society ("caste"?) that others did not have.  I remember checking a sociology book in high school and dad's income put him in the top 5% in America. Granted, it wasn't great by today's standards, but back in the 60s, my two brothers and I each got a car from our parents. We all got through college, and two of us graduate degrees with no college debts. I don't believe that I have to feel guilt or apologize for that; but I have to recognize that we were privileged.

How so because of your race? And I suspect that your parents worked very hard to reach their "position in society," rather than merely because of their race. I recall that one of your parents is/was Jewish, i.e., from a "caste" that suffered substantial and even horrible discrimination over the centuries.

You then go on to undermine your point above. Did your parents lose everything because of their race?


I thought this was a discussion about castes, not race.
It is also not about economic class. A successful business going bankrupt does not necessarily or even likely mean a change in caste for the owners.

Donald_Kirchner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 11776
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #113 on: May 14, 2021, 05:00:49 PM »
And, again, we must feel guilt and apologize for being a white male "protestant" with a job.   ::)

No. It's recognizing that I had privileges and opportunities because of my race and my parent's position in society ("caste"?) that others did not have.  I remember checking a sociology book in high school and dad's income put him in the top 5% in America. Granted, it wasn't great by today's standards, but back in the 60s, my two brothers and I each got a car from our parents. We all got through college, and two of us graduate degrees with no college debts. I don't believe that I have to feel guilt or apologize for that; but I have to recognize that we were privileged.

How so because of your race? And I suspect that your parents worked very hard to reach their "position in society," rather than merely because of their race. I recall that one of your parents is/was Jewish, i.e., from a "caste" that suffered substantial and even horrible discrimination over the centuries.

You then go on to undermine your point above. Did your parents lose everything because of their race?

I thought this was a discussion about castes, not race.

Then why did you bring it up?

"...I had privileges and opportunities because of my race and my parent's position in society ("caste"?)..."

You mentioned both and I responded to both.
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but itís not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 43483
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #114 on: May 14, 2021, 06:43:57 PM »
It is also not about economic class. A successful business going bankrupt does not necessarily or even likely mean a change in caste for the owners.


What determines the caste?
"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5387
    • View Profile
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #115 on: May 16, 2021, 09:53:07 AM »
In the Twin Cities area a book club will be discussing Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, starting Tuesday. I get the impression that it is open to anyone.
https://www.startribune.com/book-club-explores-caste-in-america/600057692/

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Dave Benke

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 12711
    • View Profile
    • Atlantic District, LCMS
Re: Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents
« Reply #116 on: May 17, 2021, 09:20:45 AM »
At least once in the thread the year 1619 has been mentioned. I happen to be at the point in Wilkerson's book where she talks about 1619. I can't copy-type all that she says, but in August 1619 a settler John Rolfe makes "the oldest surviving reference to Africans in the English colonies in America, people who looked different from the colonists and who would ultimately be assigned by law to the bottom of an emerging caste system. Rolfe mentions them as merchandise . . . The ship 'brought not anything but 20 and odd Negroes . . . which the Governor and Cape Merchant bought for victualles.'
     "Historians do not agree on what their status was . . . .
     "With the first rough attempts at a colonial census, conducted in Virginia in 1630, a hierarchy began to form. Few Africans were seen as significant enough to be listed in the census by name . . . The Africans were not cited by age or arrival date as were the Europeans, information vital to setting the terms and time frame of indenture for Europeans, or for Africans, had they been in the same category, been seen as equal, or seen as needing to be accurately accounted for.
     "Thus, before there was a United States of America, there was the caste system, born in colonial Virginia. At first, religion, not race as we now know it, defined the status of people in the colonies. Christianity, as a proxy for Europeans, generally exempted European workers from lifetime enslavement. This initial distinction is what condemned, first, indigenous people, and, then, Africans, most of whom were not Christian upon arrival, to the lowest rung of an emerging hierarchy before the concept of race had congealed to justify their eventual and total debasement."
That is Wilkerson's take on 1619. HTH

Peace,
Michael

To the bolded portion of your comment, Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s "The Black Church" goes into great detail concerning the conversion to Christianity of Africans were brought to the Colonies and eventually the United States.  https://www.pbs.org/show/black-church/

Conversion efforts meant, of course, that the Africans and indigenous people were considered to have souls, and therefore to be human.  The question then was and is one of caste, of levels of humanity and levels of human rights.  If determined to be brutish or savage, there were less rights for those folks because they were deemed to be at a lower level of humanity. 

Dave Benke