Renowned author Isabel Wilkerson was hosted by Creighton in a Zoom event last Wednesday for the final installment of the Presidential Lecture Series and discussed the history and impacts of race and class in the United States. 

The speakers presented both in-person and through Zoom. 

Wilkerson discussed the themes of her newest book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”, which focuses on how the United States has a distinct caste system based on race. 

She invited reflection on the legacy of slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow segregation, the death of George Floyd, and the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

“Our country is like a patient with a pre-existing condition… it has led us to our current moment,” said Wilkerson. 

Throughout her career, Wilkerson has acquired numerous accolades such as the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, as well as being on the New York Times bestseller list for two of her books. 

On her podcast, Oprah’s Book Club, Oprah Winfrey hosted Wilkerson for an eight-part series and named Caste, “one of the most profound books she’s read.” 

Wednesday’s discussion was moderated by Sarah Walker, the vice president of the Division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Creighton. 

Walker and Wilkerson engaged in a dialogue about race, class and the legacy of slavery in the United States. 

Wilkerson discussed how the United States has a caste system comparable to that in India. While it may not be as recognized it is still manifested in numerous ways. 

For example, Wilkerson stated that there are physiological impacts of race-based discrimination and generational trauma. 

Much of this is a result of an implicit system of ranking, access to resources and protection from authorities. 

She juxtaposed the trauma of watching the murder of Floyd and the Jan. 6 insurrection and questioned how it was possible that Floyd did not get justice but individuals attacking the capitol can walk free. 

Wilkerson called this the “entitlement of the dominant.” 

Wilkerson urged a response of compassion, education and reconciliation. 

Wilkerson stressed that a caste system is present in the United States and it is left to us to dismantle systems of oppression. 

She stated that unless we make a change, the lowest will be kept at the bottom. 

This lecture series was presented through the partnership of the Kingfisher Institute of the Liberal Arts and Professions, the Division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and finally the Creighton Intercultural Center according to the Creighton University website upcoming events details webpage. 

Wilkerson’s words will stand as the final ones spoken in the Presidential Lecture Series.

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