In an interview with author Isabel Wilkerson, Oprah Winfrey described America's "caste system" as "the template for Nazi Germany" during the latest episode of her Apple TV series, "Oprah's Book Club."
Wilkerson, author of "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents," characterized the book as an analysis of a race-based American "caste system."
"How did you decide to focus the book on three cast systems — India, Nazi Germany, and the United States? I think a lot of people get riled up and offended that you're comparing the caste system here to Nazi Germany, yet we discover that we were the template for Nazi Germany," Winfrey asked in the interview.
Winfrey and Wilkerson agreed that Adolf Hitler drew inspiration from American eugenicists when creating the Nuremberg laws, although neither acknowledged Margaret Sanger's role in America's eugenicist movement.
Winfrey alleged that America's racial "caste system" includes "systemic racism" and "microaggressions."
Wilkerson said she deliberately omits the terms "racism" and "racist" in her writings, saying that the terms are ineffective and overused literary tools of persuasion.
"I think that it's a word that is often misunderstood. It's a word that has many different meanings to different people, even though social scientists have a singular definition for it, which would be prejudice plus the power to enforce that prejudice institutionally," Wilkerson said. "I don't use the word because I think that we stop hearing what it means when we've heard something for so long, and which can be misinterpreted by so many different people. I believe that ["Caste"] is a focus on the infrastructure of our divisions. It's a focus in on what lies beneath, what we think we see, and it focuses us on the structure of a thing and that allows us to see how race has essentially been the cue and the signifier of where a person fits in that hierarchy."
🔦 All episodes on The Winfrey Conversation have focused on racial politics, and Winfrey has said she plans to continue the theme.