A Book and a Film That Offer Paradigm-Shifting Visions

Isabel Wilkerson’s empathy-laced analysis is essential in these turbulent times

Gail Valker McNulty 🕊️🌱
12 min readFeb 12, 2024


The book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson next to a vase with wilted white roses on a wooden table
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson next to a vase of wilted white roses. Photo by the author.

We must understand the source of our problems before we can transcend them. As a whyte¹ mother in the U.S., I’m trying to comprehend these sad times when so many seem unable to sense one another’s pain.

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Watching the film Origin felt cathartic. To me, it offers a new source of hope. Directed by Ava DuVernay, Origin holds key lessons for this dehumanizing era. The film follows Isabel Wilkerson’s life as she researched her thesis and wrote Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Throughout Origin, Isabel uncovers evidence of how cultures have designed caste systems to maintain engineered social orders. Watching her thoughts take shape, this time when our leaders downplay and normalize genocide blends into a larger pattern. Listening to news from Gaza, I keep sensing parallels between the horrors Palestinians are enduring and those Isabel depicts.

The U.S. and most other imperialist countries have yet to fully admit to, apologize, and make amends for the trauma they have inflicted. If they had found the courage and humility to do so, this cycle of violence might have ceased years ago. Instead, these self-righteous nations continue to act with impunity.

Origin and Caste show how our social systems have unsound foundations. Designed to elevate some and crush others, the original cracks continue to widen.

COVID found its way through these cracks. It ravaged the most vulnerable before reaching the ‘dominant castes’.

Caste systems have also led to climate catastrophe. When some communities become ‘sacrifice zones’ (where people designated as lower castes live) the entire planet heats. Those who enjoy upper caste status usually pollute the most. Their homes tend to be well protected — at least in the short term.

Mother Earth and her abused, now awakening masses have built up immunity to this trauma-induced madness. Her seas are rising. Her saltwater tears will soon intrude through the…



Gail Valker McNulty 🕊️🌱

Dreaming of a future where instead of having the right to pursue happiness, people everywhere have enough and live in peace and harmony with Nature.