“Those in the dominant caste who found themselves lagging behind those seen as inherently inferior potentially faced an epic existential crisis. To stand on the same rung as those perceived to be of a lower caste is seen as lowering one’s status. In the zero-sum stakes of a caste system upheld by perceived scarcity, if a lower-caste person goes up a rung, an upper-caste person comes down. The elevation of others amounts to a demotion of oneself, thus equality feels like a demotion.” Isabel Wilkerson Caste The Origins of Our Discontents P183 Random House 2020.
There is no fluff in the book Caste, in fact it is an emotionally taxing read and I firmly believe many people need to read and understand the history of the racial caste system in the United States. I pulled out this particular quote though because it just feels so relevant in these days and times, social media seems to be full of angry people posting pictures of fast food restaurants offering 15-20 dollars an hour just trying to fill positions. I have never understood where this kind of anger comes from until I read the passage, then it clicked. It makes me sad that we, the human race, find ourselves chained to such ingrained mores. How do we escape the clutches of such thinking and embrace the egalitarian principals laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble of the Constitution.
Maybe it is just that I am an Idealist and a dreamer, but deep down I want everyone to be equal and afforded the opportunity to pursue their success. I know many of us will fall short and struggle to find our way and that is ok. I would rather stand and hold the ladder for others to climb higher than trying to knock anyone down. Or in the words of Damien Marley from So a child may follow “Dread shine your light, so a child may follow, many have been lost along the way.” If more of us are shining our lights, holding onto ladders, or reaching out our hands to help others up we could change the world.