Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Cabinet leaders read through “Caste”

6/16/2021

This spring, the leaders of the Oklahoma Conference Cabinet read through the book study for Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Rev. Joseph Harris, assistant to the bishop and director of communications, called it one of the most intense studies the cabinet has ever experienced. 

“It is a book that makes you think, repent and advocate for true justice for all,” Harris said. “It is also a living testament to what still happens today and what we must eradicate for tomorrow.”

Caste is written by, Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal winner Isabel Wilkerson. It takes a look at the concept of social hierarchy as it relates to racism, comparing and contrasting the caste systems present in America, India and Nazi Germany. Harris, Bessie Hamilton, and Victor McCullough – all black Americans – led the study for the mostly white cabinet members. 

“Trekking through Caste proved to be a difficult read, not academically but thematically. The stories were troubling, sometimes chilling. It forced me to be honest about my own privilege, simply based on something as arbitrary as the shade of my skin,” said Rev. Terry Koehn, the district superintendent for Green Country. “Wilkerson's work gave me a framework for seeing issues of racism beyond people's personal prejudices. In my own work, I will continue to double back on my own assumptions and understandings to ask in what ways issues of ‘caste’ might be shaping or driving my opinions and decisions.”

Rev. Carol Cooke Moore, district superintendent for Northern Prairie, called Caste one of the most significant books she’s read. 

“Because of my privileged place in the caste system, it was a hard book to read; now my eyes cannot close to these realities,” Cooke Moore said. “The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to acknowledge the sin of oppression.”

Rev. Charlie Graves, the district superintendent for Cimarron, said he appreciated the inclusion of historical background information. 

“It helped open my eyes and awareness to some historical realities I had not been aware of,” Graves said. “It helped give perspective and context to some of our societal realities today.”

Rev. Larry Bauman, the district superintendent for Lake Country, appreciated the group study. 

“I felt that the discussions we had around the Caste book really helped me to better understand the differences among us,” Bauman said. “I greatly appreciated the willingness of our group to be open and vulnerable made that possible. It was difficult and challenging, but was well worth it.”

 

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