Oprah Winfrey: America’s Racial ‘Caste System’ Was the ‘Template for Nazi Germany’

Apple TV+ / Oprah's Book Club

Billionaire multimedia mogul Oprah Winfrey described America’s “caste system” as “the template for Nazi Germany” in an interview with Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, for the latest episode of her Apple TV series, Oprah’s Book Club.

Wilkerson, an alumnus of the New York Times, characterized Caste as an analysis of what she describes as 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 said.

Adolf Hitler drew inspiration from American eugenicists in formulating the Nuremberg laws, noted Wilkerson and Winfrey. Neither acknowledged Margaret Sanger’s prominence in America’s eugenicist movement.

America’s racial “caste system,” Winfrey alleged, includes “systemic racism” and “microaggressions.”

Wilkerson explained the rationale behind her deliberate omission of the terms “racism” and “racist” in her writings, describing the terms as broadly ineffective and overused literary tools of persuasion in the context of her political polemics:

In the stories that I did for the New York Times, I didn’t use the word. In The Warmth of Other Suns, word does not appear. I pointedly stand here, sit here, stating that I don’t use the word and it’s for a reason. 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.

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. 

Oprah Winfrey also falsely accused President Donald Trump of praising white nationalists in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” echoing the falsehood upon which Joe Biden’s latest presidential campaign was launched.

All episodes of The Oprah Conversation, Winfrey’s second eponymous series on Apple TV, have focused on racial politics. And the billionaire media mogul isn’t showing signs of letting up on this kind of political fare.

“Whiteness still gives you an advantage, no matter what,” declared Winfrey in the first episode of The Oprah Conversation. She described “white privilege” as a social force affording advantages to whites at the expense of blacks. She later warned how “whiteness” can be used “as a weapon.”


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