The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2020
Hardback: Random House, 2020
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Whiteness is “an innovation that is only several hundred years old, dating back to the time of the transatlantic slave trade. And that is because before that time, there were humans on the land wherever they happened to be on this planet, and because of the way people were living on the land, they were merely who they were.
They were Irish or they were German or they were Polish or Hungarian, and only [thought of themselves as white] after the transatlantic slave trade, only after people who had been spread out all over the world converged in this one space — the New World — to create a new country, a new culture where all of these people were then interacting and having to figure out how they were going to relate to one another.
That is when you have a caste system that emerges, a caste system that emerges that instantly relegates those who were brought in to be enslaved … to the very bottom of the caste system, and then elevated those who looked like those who had who created the caste system — meaning those who were British and Western Europeans — at the very top of the caste system. And anyone who entered that caste system had to then navigate and figure out how were they [were] going to manage, how are they [were] going to survive and succeed in this system. And also upon arrival, discovering that they were assigned to a particular category, whether they [wished] to be in it or not.
- from an NPR interview with Isabel Wilkerson,
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