Placitas Reads: Color, Class, and Caste: The Other Social Distancing

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By Anne Grey Frost, Adult Programs Committee

Placitas Community Library will offer the first in our series of conversations on issues of race, class, and systemic divisions in our culture and community; “Color, Class, and Caste: The Other Social Distancing” at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 15 via Zoom.

The current situation in the world but especially in the United States gives us great cause to consider how we came to be here.  The pandemic has exacerbated and laid bare problems and issues that have been embedded in our country since its earliest days.  The fact that many of us don’t know or understand this history has allowed these issues to fester.

Our discussion will focus on the concepts raised in Isabel Wilkerson’s profound book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Dr. Wilkerson is the best-selling author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, a noted journalist, and the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism and the National Humanities Medal. 

Caste, itself, has received many awards not the least of which is the publishing industry’s “Best Book of 2020 across All Genres”. Caste is a riveting history of three major caste systems – India, Nazi Germany and Slavery/Jim Crow in the United States. Some of the stories are hard to read but the author lays out in a direct and thoughtful way how America, through history and today, has been shaped by a sometimes hidden caste system.

Our first conversation, on May 15, will feature excerpts from several of the marvelous interviews Dr. Wilkerson has had with Ken Burns and Oprah Winfrey. From this common ground we will break into small groups (ah the magic of zoom) to discuss our perspectives on the issues raised. PCL encourages those who have not yet read Caste to attend this discussion. It may peak your interest to explore further.

 On June 19, all are invited to gather again on zoom for a “Book group” type discussion of Caste itself.  We encourage you to form your own ‘group’ for more in depth conversation, inviting your friends and neighbors, or even the folks you connect with in the zooms. There is so much to explore and discover about our history and experiences.

A great way to reacquaint yourself with some American history is by reading the NYT 1619 Project. PCL has copies of this NYT Sunday insert available for free in the lobby as well as copies of Caste available both for purchase and check out in hardback, ebook and audio. On our Placitas Reads page, you will find annotated lists of other books, films, interviews, and other resources for all ages which will add aspects and nuance to the themes covered in Caste.

Register for the zoom program in advance on the Placitas Reads page.

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