2021 Congregational Read of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Congregational Read of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

On December 13, 2020 our congregation voted to adopt the 8th Principle of Unitarian Universalism, proposed by Black Lives of UU:  We, the members the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, Indiana, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.


Beginning in February, 2021 we embarked on a congregational read of Pulitzer-Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson’s latest book, Caste: The Origins of our Discontents. Facilitated discussion and writing groups offer the opportunity to learn from this important book and from each other.  In addition to the facilitated groups, self-formed discussion groups and individuals reading independently are joining in the congregational read.


This page acts as a clearinghouse for the reading schedule, reflective prompts, and links to related resources.  It will be updated throughout the course of the congregational read.  The prompts can be shared freely within and beyond our congregation.


Reading Schedule and Reflective Prompts

  • Week of February 14: The Man in the Crowd and Part One;  Week 1 Prompts
  • Week of February 21: Part Two; Week 2 Prompts
  • Week of February 28:  <no reading or meeting>
  • Week of March 7: Part Three; Week 3 Prompts
  • Week of March 14: Part Four (first half): Brown Eyes versus Blue Eyes, Chapters 10, 11, 12, 13;  Week 4 Prompts
  • Week of March 21: Part Four (second half): Chapters 14, 15, 16, 17, 18; Week 5 Prompts
  • Week of March 28: <no reading or meeting>
  • Week of April 4: Part Five;  Week 6 Prompts
  • Week of April 11: Part Six; Week 7 Prompts
  • Week of April 18: Part Seven and Epilogue; Week 8 Prompts
  • Week of April 25: Final meeting of facilitated groups – no reading

Final Prompts for Congregational Read of Caste

Where do we go from here?

We will soon be finishing our read of Caste: The Origins of our Discontents.  Many of you are wondering where do we go next? What can we do as a congregation? How can we respond to what we have learned from our reading and discussions? We want you to be aware of some of our next steps and invite you to join with us as we continue the journey.

  • Respond to the Final Prompts for Congregational Read of Caste and check back here to find out how to anonymously share your responses.
  • Come to the church-wide meeting on Sunday, May 2nd on Zoom at 11:30 – More information coming soon.
  • Participate in the 21-day Racial Justice Challenge which will begin in May.
  • Be thinking of opportunities and projects that the congregation could get involved with.

Other Resources

Reflections from members  (updated periodically).

How the Racial Wealth Gap Was Created – California Newsreel video highlighting discriminatory Federal Housing policies and private lending practices. [Chapter 11]

A video from Jane Elliot’s Blue Eyes / Brown Eyes experiment, first taught in 1968 and a PBS documentary “A Class Divided” that includes a reunion of her former 3rd graders talking about how the lesson affected them. [Part Four]

A video recording of the 2/14/21 IU-hosted event “Race, Caste, and Inequality: A Student-Focused Discussion”, along with books recommended by the panel.

A 1/21/2021 interview with Isabel Wilkerson on the NY Times podcast Sway on why a new presidency alone can’t fix America’s 400-year-old race-based hierarchy.  America’s Caste System is 400 Years Old.  That Doesn’t Change Overnight

Article by Arundhati Roy about India’s Caste system:

Indiana Daily Student section dedicated to the voices of Black IU Students.  https://www.idsnews.com/section/black-voices