Oprah Discusses Powerful Old House Analogy About Race and Caste in America on Oprah's Book Club
On the latest episode of her Apple TV+ series, Oprah's Book Club, Winfrey, 66, sits down with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and bestselling author Isabel Wilkerson to discuss Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. The immersive, deeply researched book explores how America is built on a caste system, defined by a rigid hierarchy of human rankings throughout its history that carries on today.
In PEOPLE's exclusive clip from the episode, which is out now, Winfrey reads aloud a passage about a compelling analogy set forth in the book.
"You provide, I think, such a beautiful analogy that comes early, I think in chapter 2, where you explain the analogy of buying an old house," Winfrey says. "I just want to read a bit from it."
Continuing, she reads, "We in the developed world are like homeowners who inherited a house on a piece of land that is beautiful on the outside, but whose soil is unstable loam and rock, heaving and contracting over generations, cracks patched but the deeper ruptures waved away for decades, centuries even. Many people may rightly say, 'I had nothing to do with how this all started. I have nothing to do with the sins of the past. My ancestors never attacked indigenous people, never owned slaves.' And, yes. Not one of us was here when this house was built."
"Our immediate ancestors may have had nothing to do with it, but here we are, the current occupants of a property with stress cracks and bowed walls and fissures built into the foundation," the passage continues. "We are the heirs to whatever is right or wrong with it. We did not erect the uneven pillars or joints, but they are ours to deal with now, and any further deterioration is in fact on our hands."
As the passage ends, Winfrey claps the book shut. "Drop the mic, I say," she says. "Tell me how you came up with that analogy."
Wilkerson explains that she was inspired by her love of old houses. "I love old houses, but old houses always need work, and the old houses that I've lived in have always needed work," she says. "Just when you think you've fixed one thing, there's something else that needs attention."
"And when you own an old house, you know to expect those things," she continues. "You know that the work is never done. And if we think of our country as being like an old house, then we recognize that it should always be open for re-inspection, for additional inquiry, for checking things out, if we want it to be healthy and to stand for a long time."
Winfrey's in-depth conversation with Wilkerson will continue next week with a two-part episode of The Oprah Conversation series, out Oct. 9. In the two-part episode, readers will share stories of how the themes explored in Wilkerson's book resonate with their lives and experiences.
Additionally, Apple Books and Oprah's Book Club are offering Read With Us: Caste, An Oprah's Book Club Discussion Guide, available for free on Apple Books. The discussion guide includes an introductory letter from Winfrey, a Q&A with Wilkerson, questions to prompt self-reflection and important discussions, and more recommended reads.
The newly launched Oprah's Book Club podcast is also available now on Apple Podcasts. The eight-episode series explores the eight pillars of caste with Wilkerson.
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