This was an eye-opening book about the causes and persistent, deep effects of racial division in the United States. Wilkerson clearly demonstrates the harmful effects of not just overt racism but of the unconscious bias that comes from growing up in a society which continues to teach us, whether consciously or unconsciously, that white people are superior to those of other races. I feel that I’ve gained a new level of understanding from this book that will help me treat others more equally.

I found the comparison between Nazi Germany and pre-1960s USA particularly troubling, not because it was inaccurate – both countries forced their fellow humans to work under inhumane conditions, tore them from their families, and brutally punished them for even the slightest deviation from their assigned role – but because it highlighted the way that the United States has failed to truly distance itself from its horrific past. Germans view the Nazi era as a terrible part of their history, and they seek to remember its gruesome details to ensure that it is never repeated. In the United States, on the other hand, we acknowledge the brutality of slavery and the Jim Crow era but shy away from the uncomfortable, necessary job of understanding what it was truly like and how it came to be. As a result, we have been unable to eliminate our racial struggles.

I was a little disappointed that Wilkerson focused very little on how to eliminate caste and its negative effects. However, I think that her exploration of the history of caste in the United States and its continuing effects is an important first step towards improving the situation.