You will write a 4-page reflection paper (using your textbook as a guide) on the impact of the Caste system on Black Women in the United States. Please refer to the APA manual as needed to properly cite and reference at least 3 academic/peer-reviewed sources for this paper.
Papers are to be typed in a 12-point font, doubled spaced, and have 1” margins. A title page including your name, course number, date, and paper assignment title should be attached to each paper. Your paper should be written in the style consistent with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
Wilkerson, Isabel. (2020). Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. New York: Random House. (Also available on Audible)
5. Is America a caste system, or are people just holding onto a victimhood status? Explain your answer.
6. What do you think America would be like if slaves had not been used to help build the country? Explain your thinking.
Black women in the US are born into what is considered the subordinate group, the minority. It does not mean this is actually who they are. It simply means that that is what society has assigned women of African descent. Men and women of African descent have been considered at the very bottom of the caste system. Wilkerson (2020a) notes that even when a black person, more so a black woman is as successful as she is, this does not protect her from potential intrusions, especially from people who want to put her back in their place by setting boundaries. It is consequential to the lives of many black women in the country in so many ways, some issues rising as racially based and others inadequacies in the administering of justice. I have personally seen incidents whereby white women feel entitled to certain privileges than their black counterparts even at work and in our community. I would say that without these white girls growing up knowing that they have a certain rank in the caste system, they would not feel entitled or even subject black girls to any humiliation or unnecessary behaviors.
One of the most prominent issues black women deal with due to the country’s caste system is discrimination that is not entirely based on racism. There are various embodiments of the impact of the caste system in our country today, especially on opportunities for black women. Wilkerson (2020a) explains how she endured embarrassing moments with people who never believed she was a senior correspondent with The New York Times. She recounts that the individual she was scheduled to interview never believed that she was capable of representing the company in such a role, which we could conclude was based on her perceived race. Wilkerson notes that we show the effects of our caste system in various traits we rarely consider significant and which we often do subconsciously when we assume the individual in question has stepped out of their assigned class in society. She says that it happens:
“When we assume that a woman is not equipped to lead the meeting or the company or the country, or that a person of color or an immigrant could not be the one in authority, is not a resident of a certain community, could not have attended a particular school or deserved to have attended a particular school, when we feel a pang of shock and resentment, a personal wounding and sense of unfairness …” (2020b, para. 44).
What we have been teaching our young black girls and women is that sometimes they could outshine their counterparts from the dominant group and become the victims. When a black woman becomes successful, the caste system does not immediately reform to incorporate them and assign them a new position. On the contrary, their success is often overlooked and ignored even when it matters most. We have seen many black women who made tremendous achievements academically, socially, politically, and economically but their impact was marginally rated compared to the white women in the same positions (Bloodhart et al., 2020). The worst thing about this is that the black women who suffer from such issues do not dare to speak out to their bosses for fear of being considered weak or incapable. Wilkerson explains how she could not tell her editor about the incidents she had with interviewees.
As history has shown us in the course, from the beginning to the present, racial inequalities in various aspects of life have existed in the United States. Several decades ago, African men and women were introduced to the North American continent through the institution of chattel slavery (Berlin, 2017). Since this period, I would say black women have experienced vast inequities and inequalities in the value placed on their lives in comparison to white lives. A notable experience that has shown massive growth in class disputes across the country was the War on Drugs. According to Watson et al. (2020), the War on Drugs energized the expansion and profitability of incarceration of Black bodies, including women. He notes that the War on Drugs reflected white people’s hostility and opposition to Black people’s advancement without subjecting them to the charge of racism. Consequently, black women who have fallen prey to the “strong Black woman” phenomenon are particularly at risk of mental health issues. Black women must, therefore, take better care of themselves, recognizing the importance of their self-care and their deservedness, as highlughted by Wilkerson.
We have heard stories of how black women were subjected to hard work and low-class employment opportunities involuntarily at times because the better opportunities were reserved for the whites. For instance, Hannah-Jones (2019) says that “Grandmama, as we called her, found a house in a segregated black neighborhood on the city’s east side and then found the work that was considered black women’s work no matter where black women lived — cleaning white people’s houses.” This is just an example of how the American caste system has operated for years, with only slight improvements in recent years.
The current American caste system has mutated to a manner many cannot fathom or understand its embodiments in our society. As Wilkerson (2020a) notes, caste is about the structure, something we have inherited as a country and still affecting us on many levels, not necessarily on a personal level. Take, for example, the issue of unpaid work done by women in our societies. Banks (2020) says that despite Black women’s long activist tradition of performing unpaid work for their communities, Black women’s work has suffered from invisibility because they are often overlooked as historical objects. Teeple Hopkins (2015) notes that Black women have always engaged in unpaid work mainly because their communities have always lacked sufficient access to public and private sector resources. The media and other stakeholders usually overlook this tremendous contribution to our society today, and unsurprisingly most in the dominant group think such activities are reserved for those in the lower social class.
Various studies have noted the importance of black women. Their contribution is considered more significant than that of black men. Banks (2020) says, “From the enslavement period to contemporary times, African American women’s resistance has been a necessary aspect of survival not only for the women themselves but for the entire Black community” (p. 348). Despite such contributions, their work is often unheralded. As shown by studies such as Edward et al. (2007) and supported by Wilkerson (2020a), Black women’s work receives little attention even though it is an effective work in the country as far as providing social uplift for the vulnerable is concerned. Wilkerson clarifies various issues associated with the American Caste system, which we can use to understand where we are heading as a country. The course and the text have enlightened me on the issues facing African Americans in the US. It is our responsibility to fix the broken parts despite not bearing any accountability in the creation of the caste system. We must embrace the work black women are doing in this country and create a better social system that does not discriminate against anyone based on color or gender.
Banks, N. (2020). Black Women in the United States and Unpaid Collective Work: Theorizing the Community as a Site of Production. The Review of Black Political Economy, 47(4), 003464462096281. https://doi.org/10.1177/0034644620962811
Berlin, I. (2017). From creole to African: Atlantic creoles and the origins of African-American society in mainland North America. In Critical Readings on Global Slavery (pp. 1216-1262). Brill.
Bloodhart, B., Balgopal, M. M., Casper, A. M. A., Sample McMeeking, L. B., & Fischer, E. V. (2020). Outperforming yet undervalued: Undergraduate women in STEM. PLOS ONE, 15(6), e0234685. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234685
Edward, W., Henry Louis Gates, & David Levering Lewis. (2007). Black reconstruction in America : an essay toward a history of the part which black folk played in the attempt to reconstruct democracy in America, 1860-1880. Oxford Univ. Press.
Hannah-Jones, N. (2019). America wasn’ta democracy, until Black Americans made it one. The New York Times Magazine, 14.
Teeple Hopkins, C. (2015). Introduction: Feminist geographies of social reproduction and race. Women’s Studies International Forum, 48, 135–140. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2014.06.002
Watson, M. F., Turner, W. L., & Hines, P. M. (2020). Black Lives Matter: We are in the Same Storm but we are not in the Same Boat. Family Process, 59(4). https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12613
Wilkerson, I. (2020a). Caste : The Origins of Our Discontents. Cengage Gale.
Wilkerson, I. (2020b, July 1). America’s Enduring Caste System. The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2CZ8PHF
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Editorial Team. (2023, November 30). The Impact of Caste on Black Women. Help Write An Essay. Retrieved from https://www.helpwriteanessay.com/essays/the-impact-of-caste-on-black-women/