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Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions 
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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
DWill wrote:
LanDroid wrote:
[*] Cultural norms or silent programming transmitted for many generations.
[*] Tendencies to follow those instructions without much conscious thought or questioning.[/list]

I still don't know if I can go along with her Matrix analogy. I think she's saying that without very explicit markers of caste separations, such as "whites only" signs, caste can be firmly entrenched on a subconscious level. That is plausible, so I suppose my discomfort is that the analogy seems to go a bit far. More apparent to me is how little active maintenance could be required for a caste system, how, once started, it could be almost self-maintaining. Part of what accounts for that is that what is not happening around you is unlikely to be noticed.

I do think there are differences in the extent to which people "buy in" to the insinuations of status that get passed on. I always thought they were stupid, and my best friend was of Middle Eastern stock with olive skin and dark curly hair, but I also absorbed some of the assumptions about who could be trusted and who might be violent. But some people find that reinforcing the stereotypes is part of their fight for recognition and status, and so the caste system is meaningful and important to them. So that message gets passed on, while those who, like me, did not care, don't pass on a counter-message.

In the South today, it has become recognized that racist messages are crude and ignorant as well as hateful, and the bulk of churches in the city are open to integration like my church was in California when I was a child, but it is also impolite to raise the issue of differences in experience or police discrimination. So perceptions are still shaped by both forces, an underground current of racism and the possibility that if it surfaces the person responsible might lose a job or face social condemnation.
DWill wrote:
The scene is fictional as far as I know, but it illustrates the benign face of racial caste. It was the best way for society to get along--no hard feelings. It was necessary to make the upper caste feel virtuous in order to keep such a system. That would not be possible if the basis was hate.
I think that's a good observation. The flip side is that the upper caste could virtuously be kind to the lower caste even while holding, like Atticus Finch in "Go Set a Watchman," that it would be foolish to let Black people vote. The power relations are about power, and upper castes who don't fundamentally believe that the average person should have much say (a temptation I am subject to myself) are likely not to care much who can shove whom on the street with impunity, but can feel free to look down on anyone who would be shoving on the street.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
LanDroid wrote:

The caste system is like an immense concrete wall where artwork is displayed. We rotate exhibits of race, religion, etc. on that wall and "Ku-Kluck" at how horrible those people are. Americans hung caricatures of Irish, Italian, and Chinese people on that wall, then later took them down. Other ancient paintings likely will remain for much longer. We study the artwork in detail, yet we do not notice the separation caused by the wall itself. We have no curiosity or clue about the genesis of that wall. That's how I'm starting to understand differences between race and caste - not sure if it's correct, probably incomplete. Ay?

A good metaphor that I might call Wilkersonian. Could we also allow for the out-of-regard wall changing, becoming stronger or weaker, or somehow adapting to changes in society? Maybe in times of caste-building, the surface holds those paintings tightly, whereas various influences can begin to lessen the holding power of the wall, though it's unlikely to crumble away.

My edit is that the metaphor doesn't--for me, at this moment--explain the race/cast difference. The caste wall might be composed of different combinations of elements. A notion of race, given force by religion and so-called science, was the main element composing the caste system for the U.S. and Nazi Germany, but race doesn't seem to be as large a constituent for the Indian caste structure.



Last edited by DWill on Sun Feb 07, 2021 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
LanDroid wrote:
Quote:
Caste is insidious and therefore powerful because it is not hatred, it is not necessarily personal. It is the worn grooves of comforting routines and unthinking expectations, patterns of a social order that have been in place for so long that it looks like the natural order of things.
P. 70

Interesting. This seems to be saying caste is above the fray: Keep the power structure in place, but it's not important how that is accomplished.

In the case of Nazi Germany, the process was revolutionary rather than evolutionary, as it was in India and the British colonies/U.S. There was a strong sense of ordainment by a higher force in all of the settings though.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
DWill wrote:
My edit is that the metaphor doesn't--for me, at this moment--explain the race/cast difference. The caste wall might be composed of different combinations of elements. A notion of race, given force by religion and so-called science, was the main element composing the caste system for the U.S. and Nazi Germany, but race doesn't seem to be as large a constituent for the Indian caste structure.


Wilkerson seems to gloss over biological elements of human behavior, for example: in-group and out-group psychology, a basic distrust of outsiders instilled during millions of years of evolution when we lived in small tribes on the African savannah. Maybe those earlier tribes were far more egalitarian, but as societies grew larger we became increasingly inclined towards social segmentation. In England there used to be a rather sharp division between classes. In Marxist terms, a division between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In some Muslim countries, the divide between Sunnis and Shia is all pervasive. In America, the color of skin has become the rather arbitrary line between the haves and have-nots.

But the real story perhaps is not the arbitrary lines of division themselves but that we are so programmed to create them.

Wilkerson discusses a startling comment made by a Nigerian playwright, who said that there are no black people in Africa.

Wilkerson wrote:
Most Americans, weaned on the myth of drawable lines between human beings, have to sit with that statement. It sounds nonsensical to our ears. Of course there are black people in Africa. There is a whole continent of black people in Africa. How could anyone not see that? “Africans are not black,” she said. “They are Igbo and Yoruba, Ewe, Akan, Ndebele. They are not black. They are just themselves. They are humans on the land. That is how they see themselves, and that is who they are.”


One of Dawkins observations in The Selfish Gene is that we can rise above our primitive hardwiring. But we have to first see that we have instincts to fear outsiders. And that we really seem to want divisions so that we can form groups. We are most comfortable being in the in-group, so that we can fear and distrust the out-group. And so we hyper focus on every little difference between us, whether it's skin color, dialect, religious affiliation or whatever.

And so in Africa, where everyone has the same color of skin, blackness makes no sense. Africans will have to create other arbitrary divisions.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
DWill wrote:
My edit is that the metaphor doesn't--for me, at this moment--explain the race/cast difference. The caste wall might be composed of different combinations of elements. A notion of race, given force by religion and so-called science, was the main element composing the caste system for the U.S. and Nazi Germany, but race doesn't seem to be as large a constituent for the Indian caste structure.

That's fine, it's just my attempt to understand those differences. The wall is the structural requirement to have separations, dominance, and subservience without any specifics - our underlying demand for, and allegiance to, divisive programming. The artwork displayed on the wall (and changed on rare occasions) is the detail of that power structure worked out by a specific culture, whether by race, religion, etc. Hmmmm...I was going to say worked out in each society, but that is not true. Wilkerson mentions only three caste systems - America, Nazi Germany, and India. We'll learn more about the latter in the next chapter.

My wall and artwork metaphor is probably derivative of one Wilkerson used earlier. Caste is a creaky old multi-tiered house that represents the underlying structure of divisiveness. We did not build the house, it was inherited. The furniture and decorations are the specifics of how inequality is enforced, again whether by race, religion, etc. We may be disgusted at the bad taste of the decor, and seek to go so far as to rearrange the furniture, but we don't worry about the house. Its quirky weaknesses are accommodated and have been accepted as normal.

  • What is so special about India, Nazi Germany, and America that we are the only societies blessed with a caste system? :hmm:
  • Are we indeed the only three?



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
Quote:
What is the difference between racism and casteism? Because caste and race are interwoven in America, it can be hard to separate the two. Any action or institution that mocks, harms, assumes, or attaches inferiority or stereotype on the basis of the social construct of race can be considered racism. Any action or structure that seeks to limit, hold back, or put someone in a defined ranking, seeks to keep someone in their place by elevating or denigrating that person on the basis of their perceived category, can be seen as casteism.

Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you. For those in the marginalized castes, casteism can mean seeking to keep those on your disfavored rung from gaining on you, to curry the favor and remain in the good graces of the dominant caste, all of which serve to keep the structure intact.
p. 70

If you don't find metaphors useful, perhaps this will help.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
CHAPTER SEVEN
Through the Fog of Delhi to the Parallels in India and America


Quote:
The United States and India are profoundly different from each other—in culture, technology, economics, ethnic makeup. And yet, many generations ago, these two great lands paralleled each other, both protected by oceans and ruled for a time by the British, fertile and coveted. Both adopted social hierarchies and abide great chasms between the highest and the lowest in their respective lands. Both were conquered by people said to be Aryans arriving, in one case, from across the Atlantic Ocean, in the other, from the north. Those deemed lowest in each country would serve those deemed high. The younger country, the United States, would become the most powerful democracy on earth. The older country, India, the largest.

Their respective hierarchies are profoundly different. And yet, as if operating from the same instruction manual translated to fit their distinctive cultures, both countries adopted similar methods of maintaining rigid lines of demarcation and protocols. Both countries kept their dominant caste separate, apart and above those deemed lower. Both exiled their indigenous peoples—the Adivasi in India, the Native Americans in the United States—to remote lands and to the unseen margins of society. Both countries enacted a fretwork of laws to chain the lowliest group—Dalits in India and African-Americans in the United States—to the bottom, using terror and force to keep them there.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
LanDroid wrote:
[*] What is so special about India, Nazi Germany, and America that we are the only societies blessed with a caste system? :hmm:
[*] Are we indeed the only three?[/list]


I suspect every society has some sort of regimentation that under a microscope would look like caste. Perhaps the castes in India, Nazi Germany and America are only extreme forms of a kind of class structure that exists almost everywhere. Although i've heard that pirate society was strictly egalitarian.

I suspect many would not see the systemic racism in America as a form of caste. It probably boils down to semantics.


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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
LanDroid wrote:
Quote:
What is the difference between racism and casteism? Because caste and race are interwoven in America, it can be hard to separate the two. Any action or institution that mocks, harms, assumes, or attaches inferiority or stereotype on the basis of the social construct of race can be considered racism. Any action or structure that seeks to limit, hold back, or put someone in a defined ranking, seeks to keep someone in their place by elevating or denigrating that person on the basis of their perceived category, can be seen as casteism.

Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you. For those in the marginalized castes, casteism can mean seeking to keep those on your disfavored rung from gaining on you, to curry the favor and remain in the good graces of the dominant caste, all of which serve to keep the structure intact.
p. 70

If you don't find metaphors useful, perhaps this will help.

Just to be clear, I do find metaphors useful, and yours is a fine one. I shouldn't try to over think a metaphor, adjusting it to the more complicated reality it tries to explain. Metaphors are suggestive and I think often appropriate in letting us see essential similarities through use of novel terms. A more poetic understanding, I suppose.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
Ezra Klein had a long podcast last week on Trumpism and the internet. Mostly it went over familiar ground, and I am not particularly recommending it. The title is something like "An Appalled Conservative Considers the Future of the Republican Party." The guest, the appalled conservative, is Yuval Levin and he does a good job of representing the positive values associated with the conservative point of view, for those who are interested.

I am bringing it up because at one moment a phrase jumped up and grabbed me, and I think it's relevant to this discussion. They were talking about what is the basis for Trump's appeal, and Levin said, "in addition to the question of who will be in charge." He didn't mean just one thing with that, but when Klein came back and repeated it, "the question of who will be in charge" a lot of pieces fell into place for me. What was astonishing to me was how little they wanted to discuss the point even though they both agreed it was an important part, maybe the main part, of Trump's appeal.

I spent more time thinking about it, in the context of "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "Caste" and another book I am reading which takes up such matters from a very different angle, "Where the Crawdads Sing." And the more I thought about it the more I settled in on the notion that the famous prediction of a "majority minority" nation by 2045 had triggered deep feelings of wrongness, of injustice, by those who believe in caste. The dominance of Whites is, in their mind, just. "We" built this country. "They" can't be trusted. (And of course, as Wilkerson pointed out, Trump would repeal "Obamacare" for "them" but not for "us".)

I realize that "they" is a bigger category these days. The ones who can't be trusted may be "radical socialists" who are allied with "them". In the South radical socialist is still code language for those who side with Black people and other racial minorities, but in much of the Midwest and Northeast it means what it says it means, the issue is property and economic freedom, and the racial angle is less important. But in the whole country there is a substantial part of the White population, (not all of them Trumpists but for the most part, yes,) who still feel that racial minorities are interlopers, allowed to be here on sufferance by "us" the White majority.

All the stuff captured by "who is going to be in charge?" is too big and amorphous to pin down, and it certainly includes things like attitudes toward religion and willingness to tolerate atheists and Jews and Hindus (and maybe Muslims) as long as they stay in their place. But I have to keep digesting the question of what it means that "Freedom" means freedom for people who look like me and think like me. It is not abstract philosophical freedom, it is "our freedom".

Many people here will say, "Well, duh!" to that, and I accept the criticism. I am committed to listening to all sides, and so that generally means taking people's word for what they mean when I should probably see through it. Here's naive me, listening to a couple of highly educated Jews discussing "who is going to be in charge" and never recognizing the shadow of the gas chambers lurking in what they refer to but don't want to discuss.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
This chapter about the caste system in India is very short. I wish it was longer as that system appears ridiculously complicated. I expect there will be more information on that later.
Quote:
“Perhaps only the Jews have as long a history of suffering from discrimination as the Dalits,” wrote the Dalit journalist V. T. Rajshekar. “However, when we consider the nature of the suffering endured by the Dalits, it is only the African American parallel of enslavement, apartheid and forced assimilation that comes to mind.”

Quote:
The American system was founded as a primarily two-tiered hierarchy with its contours defined by the uppermost group, those identified as white, and by the subordinated group, those identified as black, with immigrants from outside of Europe forming blurred middle castes that sought to adjust themselves within a bipolar structure.

The Indian caste system, by contrast, is an elaborate fretwork of thousands of subcastes, or jatis, correlated to region and village, which fall under the four main varnas, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra, and the excluded fifth, known as Untouchables or Dalits.

Thousands??? Looking for news on this, I searched "Dalit" on the site IndiaToday.in. Here are a few articles.
Quote:
On Scheduled Caste Welfare: Battle Half Won
The Scheduled Castes (SCs), who number around 1,300 communities and account for nearly 200 million people or 16 per cent of India's population (2011 census), are among the most marginalised in terms of socio-economic indicators.

'Untouchability' has been abolished, but the mainstreaming of SCs through socio-economic improvement-alongside attitudinal changes in society-is a work in progress for the Republic after seven decades. The efforts to improve their lot have been through reservation in education and political and government offices and, more recently, through economic upliftment and greater participation in entrepreneurship.
2/1/2021
https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/nati ... 2021-01-30

How on earth do they keep track of all these Scheduled Castes? There are also Scheduled Tribes, don't know what those are. An amazing amount of energy must be expended in conforming to and enforcing those systems. There must be an elaborate legal system dedicated mainly to enforcing innumerable disputes at those boundaries.

Although "Untouchability" has supposedly been abolished, there are quite a few stories like the following.
Quote:
Odisha: Dalit boy suffering from skin disease forced to undergo 'purification' by villagers
A minor Dalit boy suffering from a congenital skin disorder in Odisha was forced to undergo a 'purification' ritual in order to be socially accepted by villagers. The seven-year-old boy, who suffers from congenital nevomelanocytic nevus (CNN) -- a skin disorder that leads to unusual growth of dark hairy patches in the body -- and his family had been socially ostracised by the villagers.

The incident, which happened two weeks back, took place at Baghua village, under Jagannath Prasad block, in Odisha. The father of the boy even had to shell out Rs 10,000 to be accepted back into the village, the report said. (10,000 Indian Rupees = $137. USD) As part of the condition to be accepted, the villagers insisted on the boy's 'purification' by being tonsured followed by a community feast.
1/30/2021
https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/o ... 2021-01-29


Quote:
4 booked for thrashing, urinating on Dalit youth in Pudukkottai of Tamil Nadu
Four people were booked for alleged harassment and assault on a Dalit youth in the Pudukkotai district of Tamil Nadu. The 18-year-old Dalit youth has claimed that the men thrashed and urinated on him for objecting to a derogatory word.

...The Dalit youth said Pradeep used a derogatory word for his caste to which he protested. He said Pradeep and three others dragged him into a car and took him to a secluded place. There, they thrashed the Dalit youth, and urinated on him. A case was filed under sections 365, 342, 506, 294 (b), and 323 of IPC and also sections under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Amendment Act based on his complaint.
1/30/2021
https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/3 ... 2021-01-30



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
If they have public opinion polling in India, I wonder what the attitudes are toward the caste system. It's possible many will still say such an ordering is a good set-up, promoting harmony. Or maybe there is scant support for it, yet the advantages are baked in by this time, so the uppers can enjoy them, with lip service to more equality.

It's clear the system has come under scrutiny due to the expectations of modern government. So you could say that things are better now. The problem is that improvements to a bad system leaves you still with a bad system, so it's understandable that many people still held back don't appreciate hearing that progress has been made. It can sound too much like gratitude is expected for privileges that never should have been denied. It must be frustrating for writers like Wilkerson to constantly bump up against the charge that they're not giving enough credit for things being not as bad as 50 years ago.

It seems that once it was more possible to justify social stratification in the interest of a well-functioning society. The individual's rights and opportunities were less important. That view has shifted as time has gone on and economic opportunity has become what all expect.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
DWill wrote:
If they have public opinion polling in India, I wonder what the attitudes are toward the caste system. It's possible many will still say such an ordering is a good set-up, promoting harmony. Or maybe there is scant support for it, yet the advantages are baked in by this time, so the uppers can enjoy them, with lip service to more equality.
The Constitution of India, going back to 1948, outlaws discrimination against someone based on caste. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Congress Party introduced positive or compensatory discrimination to provide extra opportunities for the lowest (or "scheduled") castes. Over time this became a vote-getting strategy and the line was shifted to include more groups from less-oppressed castes.

There is still heavy prejudice against the lower castes, including blockages of marriages across boundaries, especially in the countryside. Much of the resurgence of Hinduism as a political force was a response to the affirmative action for Dalits and to the perception that lower-caste people were likely to convert to Christianity or Islam to escape their status. I am not sure what people would say if polled, but there are plenty of actions to support the notion that caste is still considered right and appropriate.

DWill wrote:
It must be frustrating for writers like Wilkerson to constantly bump up against the charge that they're not giving enough credit for things being not as bad as 50 years ago.
Yes, surely. I know that when I make those kinds of observations, it is meant to be an assertion that "things take time", but it has to be frustrating to be told to wait for fair treatment. On one hand, I am for fair treatment, now. On the other, I have a pragmatic, goal-oriented side that says you take what is pragmatically available and don't beat your head against the wall over the things that are not.

DWill wrote:
It seems that once it was more possible to justify social stratification in the interest of a well-functioning society. The individual's rights and opportunities were less important. That view has shifted as time has gone on and economic opportunity has become what all expect.
Structured, de jure, stratification is not really a source of a well-functioning society, but it can seem that way to those with privilege. The idea that there will be differences in power was something the Communists were not able to get rid of (and often did not even try) but did try to put on a meritocratic basis.

The real issue with caste and other structures oppressing individuals in the name of order is the de facto stratification that lingers on. The suspicion over giving someone a job, the worry over what class of people your children go to school with, the general sense of distance and difference, all these are mechanisms that transmit injustice without formal structures.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
CHAPTER EIGHT
The Nazis and the Acceleration of Caste


The author starts to examine the third caste system. It is quite unnerving to see the strong influence of American law in the institutional restrictions enacted under the Nazi regime.

Quote:
In debating “how to institutionalize racism in the Third Reich,” wrote the Yale legal historian James Q. Whitman, “they began by asking how the Americans did it.”
p. 78

Quote:
The Nazis had been especially taken with the militant race theories of two widely known American eugenicists, Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant. Both were men of privilege, born and raised in the North and educated in the Ivy League. Both built their now discredited reputations on hate ideology that devised a crude ranking of European “stock,” declared eastern and southern Europeans inferior to “Nordics” and advocated for the exclusion and elimination of “races” they deemed threats to Nordic racial purity, foremost among them Jews and “Negroes.” A racial slur that the Nazis adopted in their campaign to dehumanize Jews and other non-Aryans—the word Untermensch, meaning “subhuman”—came to them from the New England–born eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard.

Quote:
By the time that Hitler rose to power, the United States “was not just a country with racism,” Whitman, the Yale legal scholar, wrote. “It was the leading racist jurisdiction—so much so that even Nazi Germany looked to America for inspiration.” The Nazis recognized the parallels even if many Americans did not.

Why do so few Americans recognize the parallels now as the Nazis did then?
Quote:
What the Nazis could not understand, however, was why, in America, “the Jews, who are also of interest to us, are not reckoned among the coloreds,” when it was so obvious to the Nazis that Jews were a separate “race” and when America had already shown some aversion by imposing quotas on Jewish immigration.

Remember the thought experiment in the previous chapter where in an alternate universe short people are the dominant group and how that would be accepted as a natural order.
Quote:
While the Nazis praised “the American commitment to legislating racial purity,” they could not abide “the unforgiving hardness” under which “ ‘an American man or woman who has even a drop of Negro blood in their veins’ counted as blacks,” Whitman wrote. “The one-drop rule was too harsh for the Nazis.”
p. 87



Last edited by LanDroid on Sat Feb 13, 2021 2:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Added a question and a statement.



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Sat Feb 13, 2021 12:30 pm
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To read, or not to read...

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Post Re: Caste: Part 2 - The Arbitrary Construction of Human Divisions
Here again we see the underlying pattern of caste: A dominant group, a subordinate group that serves and is deprived of resources, and a system of separation to prevent "infection." But erected on that foundation the details are quite different, focusing obviously much more on Jews than race and eventually on extermination rather than separation. Another binary system, Aryan Vs. Jew, unlike the complicated system in India.

I expect many Americans still look back on that era and shake heads wondering how such horrors could have happened in a sophisticated culture. Did they really not know what was happening in the concentration camps? Some may be vaguely aware of American support and influence. The was a rally of 20,000 Nazis at Madison Square Gardens in 1939. Check this skin-crawling 6 minute video of that event. Or take Henry Ford, who headed an anti-Semitic newspaper, wrote the infamous four volume book The International Jew, and received the Grand Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle, the highest honor Nazi Germany could give to any foreigner.

And yet it is shocking to learn aspects of the American legal system underpinned the Nazi framework.
Why is this shocking? Why is this information not better known?
Yeegadz, the one drop rule was too much for Nazis?

The subtitle of this chapter is "The Nazis and the Acceleration of Caste." It seems the American caste system took a while to develop after 1619. And although there was over a thousand years of background anti-Semitism in Europe, the German caste system was erected almost instantly. How much of that is because they could pick and choose elements from the well established American system to build their own? The subtitle indicates quite a bit. Another aspect is strong dictators are extremely efficient at implementing drastic change.



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