Author Archives: randy

Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson; and How I Built This by Guy Raz – Coming for the February 5 First Friday Book Synopsis (On Zoom)

Feb, 2021 FFBSFirst Friday Book Synopsis, Friday, February 5, 2020 — on Zoom
Time: 7:30 am (Central Time)

1) Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson. PublicAffairs. (April 28, 2020)

2) How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (September 15, 2020)

Zoom link below
Please invite one and all to participate in this session.

During Pandemic Season, we have continued to average well over 100 people gathering each month on Zoom for the First Friday Book Synopsis..

On February 5, I will present my synopses of two very good books.  One of them, Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson, is a big, big-picture work by a renowned Harvard professor.

The other, How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz, is chock-full of insights and counsel from the best entrepreneurs of a generation.

If you are like many, you do not have time to read all of the books you would like to read.  The First Friday Book Synopsis is designed for you.

Of course, it would be better if you read the books on your own. But, my synopses are comprehensive, surprisingly thorough, and they will give you plenty of the key content.  You will learn, and be able to ponder the ideas in a useful way.  And, if you have read the book, my synopsis will help you remember more of what you read.

Come join us.

Mark the date, Feb. 5, in your calendar, and save the Zoom info.

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Here’s that Zoom info:

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Feb. 5, 2021 – First Friday Book Synopsis
Time: Feb 5, 2021 07:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
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Here is the New York Times list of Best-Selling Business Books for January, 2021 – Atomic Habits by James Clear again/still at Number One

The New York Times has published its list of best-selling business books for January, 2021.Atomic Habits

And, yet again, during this great pandemic, Atomic Habits is at the #1 spot.  This book has been on the top spot for many of the months of the pandemic.

Of the ten books on this month’s list, I have presented synopses of six of them at our monthly event in Dallas, the First Friday Book Synopsis.  And, my former colleague, Karl Krayer, presented one other.  So, we have featured seven of the ten books on this month’s list.

Of the ten books, there is only one written by a woman author; Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead.  It is common for women authors to be underrepresented on this list, but only one woman-authored book for the month is quite a low point.

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic WorldOf the seven we have presented, I presented my synopses of:  #1, Atomic Habits; #3, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World; #4, Dare to Lead; #6, Extreme Ownership; #8, Post Corona; and #9, Range.  I chose Range as my selection for the best business book of the year in 2019.  Please read my blog post: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is my Business Book of the Year for 2019 – (Loonshots by Safi Bahcall is runner-up).

In addition, my former colleague Karl Krayer presented his synopsis of Thinking, Fast and Slow quite a few years ago.

Worth noting:  plenty of the books on this month’s list have been around quite a while. But both the Zakaria book and the Galloway book, dealing with the pandemic, are quite new.  I presented my synopsis of each of them pretty much right after they were published.

Here is the list of the ten best-selling business books on the New York Times list for January, 2021.  Click over to their site for links to NY Times’ reviews of three of the books.

#1 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#2 – Pappyland by Wright Thompson
#3 – Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria
#4 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#5 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#6 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#7 – Edison by Edmund Morris
#8 – Post Corona by Scott Galloway
#9 – Range by David Epstein
#10 – I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Second Edition by Ramit Sethi

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We make our synopses available to purchase.  Each synopsis comes with the audio recording of our presentation, plus the comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout.  Click on the buy synopses tab to search by title.  And click here for our newest additions.  (My synopsis of Post Corona will be uploaded in the site in a couple of week).

Download the two Synopses Handouts for tomorrow’s First Friday Book Synopsis, January 8, 2021 – Post Corona and The Obstacle is the Way

You are invited
First Friday Book Synopsis
Friday, January 8, 2021, 7:30 am (Central Time), 
on Zoom
I hope you can join us.

 

NOTE: ZOOM NOW REQUIRES A PASSCODE. 

IT IS BELOW, WITH THE LINK!

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Post Corona, cover

Click on image to download synopses handouts for Jan. 8

A very appreciative thank you to all who participate financially in this event. 

The cost of this remote meeting is “free.”

But, if you would like to contribute to participate, Randy would welcome you to send $12.00 directly to him through PayPal. Click here for a direct link to “donate” through PayPal.

 

 

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Well over 100 people have been joining us on our “Remote” First Friday Book Synopsis gatherings. We have had participants from all over the country. Please share this word far and wide — all are welcome!

Friday, January 8, 2021 – Zoom – (the second Friday of January)
Two Book Synopses: 
1) Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway. (2020)
2) The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday (2014).
Where: on ZOOM
When: This Friday, January 8, 7:30 am (Central Time)
The presentation will conclude shortly after 8:30 am
Speaker: Randy Mayeux will deliver both synopsis presentations.

Click here to join in on Zoom:

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Meeting ID: 838 3344 5781
Passcode: 833454

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We are all set for Friday’s Remote First Friday Book Synopsis.

#1 — Download, and print both synopses handouts by clicking here. If you have ever attended our event, you know that I am handout intensive. You really will be able to follow along better with physical copies of the handouts in front of you. So, if you have a printer, please print the handouts.

#2 — Come on in for conversation whenever you can. I have enabled the “enable join before host” button. You will arrive in the waiting room, and be let in quickly. So, you can come in, and talk to folks. I will plan to join the meeting around 7:00, and we will begin the program at 7:30. And, I will not “end the meeting” for a while after, if you want to continue conversations with others after we officially conclude.

#3 — Here is the info, with the link to join the gathering:

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Jan. 8, 2021 First Friday Book Synopsis
Time: Jan 8, 2021 07:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83833445781?pwd=S3llUnNLMURTVSs5TXQycG41UHY3Zz09

Meeting ID: 838 3344 5781

Passcode: 833454

One tap mobile
+13462487799,,83833445781#,,,,*833454# US (Houston)
+16699006833,,83833445781#,,,,*833454# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
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Meeting ID: 838 3344 5781

Passcode: 833454

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kb1gny5lFK

—–

Reminder: The cost of this remote meeting is “free.”

But, if you would like to contribute to participate, Randy would welcome you to send $12.00 directly to him through PayPal. Click here for a direct link to “donate” through PayPal.

(Note: you can also send money through Zelle, at Randy’s e-mail address).
(Randy’s e-mail address for PayPal, and Zelle, is ).

Please help spread the word far and wide; help make this a success.

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You might want to read this post. It has a printable one-sheet reminder on how to make the most of your remote learning experience.
Remote Learning 101 – Read this before attending your learning session.

Don’t just read something – write something down – a very doable New Year’s Resolution, that might make a bigger difference than you realize

In the old days, I read books on paper – you know, the kind that you would keep on a book shelf.

Now, I read books on my Kindle App on my iPad.

Page from Never Eat Alone

Here’s a page from Never Eat Alone – marked up by me

When I read the physical books, I would underline passages with a pen (I never much liked highlighters). And I would write in the margins.  With words underlined, and stars and explanation points and question marks. (My best examples, alas, are put away in storage. I’ve been reading in Kindle for quite a few years now).

This was my way of taking notes on the books I read. And there is a long-verified finding that taking notes will help you remember.

I could, and would, literally remember passages in books by remembering my markings in the margins.

It made reading an active activity, not a passive one.  I would agree with, and argue with, the author.  He or she didn’t know it; but I did.

Now, in my current life, I take all of my Kindle highlighted passages, and edit them down into my synopsis handouts for the First Friday Book Synopsis and the Urban Engagement Book Club (and plenty of client presentations).  My handouts are 10-12 pages long, usually.  They are comprehensive.

But for my presentations, I write in the margins; a lot.  I write instructions to myself; points to emphasize.  It is, again, a very active process.

Therefore…

I have a strong recommendation for you in 2021.  Write things down.  On some kind of physical paper.

There are plenty of ways to do this:

Keep a journal
Keep a diary
Keep a list of books you read
Keep a list of presentations you heard

Write short notes in your lists, beside each item. Like:
“I learned to/was reminded to…write personal thank you notes.”

Once a month, or so, glance thorough your list, noting your few but important action items.

Keep a list of new things you learned.
Keep a list of things you already knew, but were reminded of, and should be doing.

But,
WRITE SOMETHING DOWN; ON PAPER; PHYSICALLY; IN A PLACE WHERE YOU KNOW YOU CAN FIND IT; AND RETRIEVE IT; AND REMEMBER IT.

This, by the way, is one of the insights from David Allen in his classic book on time management, Getting Things Done.  In other words, writing things down, on paper, is a way to get more done.

So, here’s a simple New Year’s Resolution for 2021; one that is easy to do, and follow. One that might make a bigger difference than you realize.

WRITE STUFF DOWN!

Happy New Year!

The Essential Baker’s Dozen – 12 (OK – 13) Books to Read to set yourself up for more success in business and in life, in 2021; and beyond

Man's Search for MeaningI am frequently asked: “what is the best book you have ever read?”  After I make a silly joke about “The Illustrated History of Professional Wrestling,” I usually answer with either The Grapes of Wrath, or Man’’s Search for Meaning.

And, sometimes, the question is:  “what is the best business book you’ve ever read?”  And my answer to that is one reason for writing this post.  My answer goes something like this:

There is no one best business book.  I need a category:  the best book on management, or the best book on time management, or the best book on…  I can give some answers to some of those questions.

But, even for a couple of categories, I cannot give “one” answer.  For example, what is the best book I have ever read on leadership?  Impossible to answer!  There are many; and the books reinforce, and build upon, each other.

But, let’s say you asked: Randy, could you give me a reading list, to help set me up for more success in my business and in my life, in 2021, and beyond?  I think I might be able to help.

So, here is my essential baker’s dozen.  Thirteen books that might make a positive difference.

And, yes, I realize that 13 books is a bunch of books for some; especially for non-book readers.  So, set an easy pace.  Just over one book a month.  Think about it:  about a book a month for a year.  And then, at the end of the year, you will know more, and likely accomplish more.

This post will come close to just listing the books, with only a comment or two.  But, I have written blog posts on most of these, and presented synopses of each of them  So, at the bottom of the post, I will provide ways for you to access those more comprehensive posts on each book, and a way to purchase my even more thorough synopses.

Here they are: The Essential Baker’s Dozen of books to read.

Category:  Life!

#1 – Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Viktor Frankl survived the death camps, and wrote this masterpiece in short order.  Countless numbers of people call this the best, most important book they have ever read.
I read this as a college student, but re-read it carefully just a few years ago, and presented my synopsis of the book.  It is truly a masterpiece.  Read this book first.

Atomic HabitsCategory:  Personal Productivity

#2 – Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear.
There is ancient wisdom that says that you build a successful life one habit at a time.  Who am I to argue against ancient wisdom?  This book has been an especially popular best-seller during the pandemic.  It is practical, and will help you build good, effective, productive habits (and, get rid of a few bad ones).  Worth reading!

#3 – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.  This is the bible of time management.  When I follow its teachings, I do in fact get more done.  Much more.  I actually re-read my synopsis handout for this book at the beginning of each year, because… I need to.

Category:  Leadership; and Management.

This is a tough category.  There are so many really good books. But, if you read these that I have listed, it will help you build a solid foundation of leadership understanding and leadership skills.  Remember:  a leader’s job is to help get the very best out of the men and women he or she leads.

#4 — Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
These former SEALs have become well known, and sought after, for their leadership principles.  This is their first book, and it is still a best-seller.  The massage is simple:  the leader owns the outcome.  Extreme Ownership; that’s the idea.

#5 — The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo.
This is the practical book on managing others.  It says: do this, and then do this, to get the best out of the people you manage.  It is worth reading especially carefully, so that you get the instructions down well.

Radical Candor#6 — Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott.
This is one of the many “don’t beat around the bush, have those essential, to-the-point conversations” books.  I think it is a really, really good book.  Her formula is:  “Care Personally, then Challenge Directly.”  It is a compliment to those books like: Crucial Conversations, and Fierce Leadership, and Fierce Conversations, and others.  Radical Candor is an essential leadership book for this era.

#7 – Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown.
Brené Brown is something of a force of nature.  This book shows the critical need for leaders with exceptional soft skills.  And, it demonstrates that soft skills are not all that soft.

Category:  Get Your Business Done

There are a few books I could recommend, but the one I will suggest here is:

#8 — Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr.
“OKRs: Objectives, Key Results.”  People have to know what they are expected to get accomplished.  The more people are clear about this, the more they will get accomplished.  This is another one to read carefully; so that you can learn the steps to follow and implement.

Category:  Get Ready for the Coming Future 

The world IS changing. Even more rapidly during the pandemic.  So, we need to think about how to get ready for the next changes, and then the next.  Here are two of many good books that can help you.

#9 — Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman.
Mr. Friedman is especially famous for his book The World is Flat, but he has continued to write important books.  This is his latest, and very much worth reading.

#10 — Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction by Thomas M. Siebel.
Mr. Siebel, of Siebel Systems, has provided a clear description of why everything that possibly can be digital will be digital.  An essential book!

Category:  Be EthicalWillful Blindness

#11 — Willful Blindness:  Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril by Margaret Heffernan.
There is a long list of companies that have allowed their ethics, if they had any, to be cast aside.  Shame on such companies!  This book is a very thorough warning to all. It is a warning worth reading, and heeding.

Category:  Prepare for the Next Crisis, In Advance

#12 — Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath.
This is the book we should have read, and heeded, before March of 2020.  Actually, well before March of 2020. This book tells us simply:  the next crisis is coming.  Identify it early; prepare for it early; and solve it early.

Category: Success Overview

Since this is a baker’s dozen list of books, I throw in this 13th selection. It is kind of a “big picture, do all this” book.

#13 — Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  This remarkable book, by the very good writer Charles Duhigg, will introduce you to psychological safety, successful team practices, and plenty of other concepts worth learning and putting into practice.

Well, that’s my baker’s dozen list.  Since it is actually 13, you’ll have to squeeze in slightly more than one book a month.  I make this promise:  if you read these thirteen books, you will know more than you did before you read them.  And, if you are diligent about putting what you learn into practice, you will be more successful, in your work life, and in your life overall.

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I’ve written posts on this blog on most of these books.  Type this in the search box on the blog: TITLE OF BOOK plus lessons and takeaways.  Usually, that will pull up my most important post on the book.

And, you can purchase my synopses of all these books.  Go to the buy synopses tab at the top of this page, and then use the search by title box to search.  Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentations.  These presentations are recorded at the First Friday Book Synopsis gatherings, our monthly sessions in Dallas. — Click here for our newest additions.
(Now available: In December, I presented my synopsis of Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria).

Caste: The Origins of our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson is my choice for the Social Justice Book of the Year, 2020 – Here are my six lessons and takeaways

Caste• The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly.
• And only recently have circumstances forced us, in this current era of human rupture, to search for the unseen stirrings of the human heart, to discover the origins of our discontents.
• Caste is the infrastructure of our divisions. It is the architecture of human hierarchy, the subconscious code of instructions for maintaining, in our case, a four-hundred-year-old social order.
• Looking at caste is like holding the country’s X-ray up to the light.  
• The elevation of others amounts to a demotion of oneself, thus equality feels like a demotion.
 • The stigmatized stratify their own, because no one wants to be in last place. (anthropologist J. Lorand Motary). 
• “The ‘function’ of upholding that caste system itself, of keeping the ‘Negro in his place.’”
• This caste system would trigger the deadliest war on U.S. soil, lead to the ritual killings of thousands of subordinate-caste people in lynchings, and become the source of inequalities that becloud and destabilize the country to this day.  
Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of our Discontent

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I have presented synopses of ten books dealing with issues of social justice this year for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare.

The fact is that a number of books I presented, dealing with issues of race, were significant, substantive books.  I would call them must-reads… The Making of a Racist by Charles Dew and The Color of Law by David Rothstein (I actually presented these two books last year); How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi; The Broken Road: George Wallace and a Daughter’s Journey to Reconciliation by Peggy Wallace Kennedy; among others.  I also presented a good and needed book on antisemitism: Antisemitism: Here and Now by Deborah Lipstadt. And a book on living in poverty – kind of a modern update of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich.  This book is Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land.

But, as much as I learned from all of these books, and as important as they all are, there was in fact a crystal clear choice for my selection of The Social Justice Book of the Year, 2020, for me.  That book is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (New York:  Random House. 2020).

A few years ago, I presented a synopsis of Isabel Wilkerson’s earlier book: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. It is such a profound book.  (Read my blog post: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson – A Big Book).

Caste, her new book, is a breathtaking book.  It is sweeping; it is damning; it is far-reaching.

Ms. Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize winning author.  Oprah chose Caste as an Oprah’s Book Club selection.  The book has been selected for numerous “best books of 2020” lists.

My comment is simple:  I learned so very much from this book.  And as I learned, I felt my heart touched, and my empathy rekindled. Even as I felt disappointment, and anger, at what our country has done.

To tell you that the book contains details of:  India’s caste system; slavery in America; the history of race in America post-Civil War; the abuse of human beings through segregation and the Jim Crow Laws; and so many more details, is still to leave too much out.

Her chapters on Nazi Germany’s reliance on the American racist systems, and her chapter on Confederate monuments, both stand out.  But really, the whole book is filled with such valuable insight.

Ms. Wilkerson wraps all of the discussion of racism into the over-arching concept of caste.  It is a convincing and compelling case.

And, in this post, I simply do not have space to tell of her utterly revealing and engaging stories; from the horrendous abuses of enslaved people by Robert E. Lee, to the use of American Laws by the Nazis, to personal mistreatment she experienced on airlines and at restaurants, and many others. (Watch the video of my synopsis, and you will hear some of these stories.  See below).

In my synopses, I always ask What is the point?  Here’s my answer for this book:
• The dominant caste looks down on the lower castes, and especially the lowest caste.  The lowest caste cannot rise any higher.  This is the essence of the evil of casteism. 

And I always ask, Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book is a comprehensive look at the reality of caste, which is the real undergirding of racism in America. 
#2 – This book is a layer-by-layer journey into the omnipresence of casteism in America (and, in India). 
#3 – This book is a call to action for white people to address, abandon, renounce, and defeat casteism.

I always include quite a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are the best of the best that I selected from Caste:

• Few problems have ever been solved by ignoring them. …In fact, you do the opposite. You educate yourself.
• A caste system is an artificial construction, a fixed and embedded ranking of human value that sets the presumed supremacy of one group against the presumed inferiority of other groups on the basis of ancestry and often immutable traits, traits that would be neutral in the abstract but are ascribed life-and-death meaning in a hierarchy favoring the dominant caste whose forebears designed it. A caste system uses rigid, often arbitrary boundaries to keep the ranked groupings apart, distinct from one another and in their assigned places.
• In the American caste system, the signal of rank is what we call race, the division of humans on the basis of their appearance. In America, race is the primary tool and the visible decoy, the front man, for caste.
• We may mention “race,” referring to people as black or white or Latino or Asian or indigenous, when what lies beneath each label is centuries of history and assigning of assumptions and values to physical features in a structure of human hierarchy.
• It is the historic flash card to the public of how they are to be treated, where they are expected to live, what kinds of positions they are expected to hold, whether they belong in this section of town or that seat in a boardroom, whether they should be expected to speak with authority on this or that subject, whether they will be administered pain relief in a hospital, whether their neighborhood is likely to adjoin a toxic waste site or to have contaminated water flowing from their taps, whether they are more or less likely to survive childbirth in the most advanced nation in the world, whether they may be shot by authorities with impunity.
• “The mill worker with nobody else to ‘look down on,’ regards himself as eminently superior to the Negro,” observed the Yale scholar Liston Pope in 1942.  … “Let the lowest white man count for more than the highest negro.”
• Americans are loath to talk about enslavement in part because what little we know about it goes against our perception of our country as a just and enlightened nation, a beacon of democracy for the world.
• “For the first time in history, one category of humanity was ruled out of the ‘human race’ and into a separate subgroup that was to remain enslaved for generations in perpetuity.”
They were regularly whipped, raped, and branded, …tortures that the Geneva Conventions would have banned as war crimes had the conventions applied to people of African descent on this soil.
• Slavery made the enslavers among the richest people in the world.
• No current-day adult will be alive in the year in which African-Americans as a group will have been free for as long as they had been enslaved. That will not come until the year 2111.
• The dominant caste devised a labyrinth of laws to hold the newly freed people on the bottom rung ever more tightly, while a popular new pseudoscience called eugenics worked to justify the renewed debasement.
• 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.
• Many leading Americans had joined the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century, including the inventor Alexander Graham Bell, the auto magnate Henry Ford, and Charles W. Eliot, the president of Harvard University.  … the German Society for Racial Hygiene applauded “the dedication with which Americans sponsor research in the field of racial hygiene and with which they translate theoretical knowledge into practice.”
• The Nazis were impressed by the American custom of lynching its subordinate caste of African-Americans, having become aware of the ritual torture and mutilations that typically accompanied them. Hitler especially marveled at the American “knack for maintaining an air of robust innocence in the wake of mass death.”
• In the zero-sum stakes of a caste system upheld by perceived scarcity, if a lower-caste person goes up a rung, an upper-caste person comes down.

Here are a few of the key points  I included from the book, in my synopsis:

  • Caste is about: Power; Resources; Respect, authority, assumptions of competence.
  • The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not. It is about resources—which caste is seen as worthy of them and which are not, who gets to acquire and control them and who does not. It is about respect, authority, and assumptions of competence—who is accorded these and who is not.
  • It’s Caste; it’s race; it’s caste/race…
  • Caste and race are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive. They can and do coexist in the same culture and serve to reinforce each other. Race, in the United States, is the visible agent of the unseen force of caste. Caste is the bones, race the skin. Race is what we can see, the physical traits that have been given arbitrary meaning and become shorthand for who a person is. Caste is the powerful infrastructure that holds each group in its place.
  • Caste is fixed and rigid. Race is fluid and superficial.
  • While the requirements to qualify as white have changed over the centuries, the fact of a dominant caste has remained constant from its inception—whoever fit the definition of white, at whatever point in history, was granted the legal rights and privileges of the dominant caste.
  • “When we speak of the race problem in America, what we really mean is the caste system and the problems which that caste system creates in America.”
  • THERE IS NO “RACE” – Two decades ago, analysis of the human genome established that all human beings are 99.9 percent the same. “Race is a social concept, not a scientific one.”
  • Caste, on the other hand, predates the notion of race and has survived the era of formal, state-sponsored racism that had long been openly practiced in the mainstream. …But caste does not allow us to ignore structure. Caste is structure. Caste is ranking.
  • Caste is the granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt, and human kindness to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing in the hierarchy.
  • Who is at the top? Who is at the bottom?
  • White
  • Asian
  • Latino
  • Black
  • While this book seeks to consider the effects on everyone caught in the hierarchy, it devotes significant attention to the poles of the American caste system, those at the top, European Americans, who have been its primary beneficiaries, and those at the bottom, African-Americans, against whom the caste system has directed its full powers of dehumanization.
  • Dominant caste, ruling majority, favored caste, or upper caste, instead of, or in addition to, white. Middle castes instead of, or in addition to, Asian or Latino. Subordinate caste, lowest caste, bottom caste, disfavored caste, historically stigmatized instead of African-American.
  • Caste — must be kept separate – otherwise the dominant caste might be polluted… (Remember  Jim Crow laws)
  • separated in eating
  • separated in learning/education
  • separated in working
  • separated in dating/marriage
  • separated in housing/separated neighborhoods
  • About white supremacy, and the Confederate States, and Confederate monuments
  • the Cornerstone Speech
  • “Its foundations are laid,” said Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, “its corner-stone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth….With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.”
  • what the Confederate monuments signal to Black people
  • Germany and the Nazis, contrasted to the US and the Confederate monuments…
  • Caste/(Race) is at the very center, the very foundation, of our history:
  • the country cannot become whole until it confronts what was not a chapter in its history, but the basis of its economic and social order.

And here are my Six Lessons and Takeaways:

#1 – We live in a country with people separated by caste. Acknowledge it.
#2 – We live in a country with people separated by caste. You will see it. Recognize it when you see it.
#3 – We live in a country with people separated by caste. Stand against it.
#4 – We live in a country with people separated by caste. Speak out against it. At the personal level.
#5 – We live in a country with people separated by caste. Speak out against it. At the societal/cultural level.
#6 – We live in a country with people separated by caste. Speak out against it. At the governmental level. 

This book is a wonderful, clear book to read.  But it is also deeply disturbing.  How could our country have been like this?  How could our country still be like this?

But the book ends with a moving story of her encounter with a plumber: a white man, who was not very approachable, or attentive, or helpful.  But with her human connection, she transformed a pretty bleak encounter into a human connection.

And her final chapter beckons us toward something better.  Here’s how Bilal Qureshi put it in his review of the book:  “A surprising and arresting wide-angle reframing . . . Her epilogue feels like a prayer for a country in pain, offering new directions through prophetic language.”

Caste is my selection for the Social Justice Book of the Year, 2020.  I strongly encourage you to read it.

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Click on image to download the synopsis handout for Caste

Click on image to download the synopsis handout for Caste

You can download my entire comprehensive, multi-page, synopsis handout by clicking here.

I posted my video of my synopsis presentation on YouTube.  It is embedded in this blog post:  Here is the video of my synopsis presentation of Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, from the December, 2020 Urban Engagement Book Club.