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Sat May 21, 2022, 12:44 PM

Caste discrimination in America [View all]


The caste system has existed in various iterations on the Indian subcontinent for over 2,000 years. Informed by religious and customary traditions, it divides people based on their family’s ancestry, assigning social status, occupations, obligations and sanctioning privileges, and repression to different castes depending on their place within the social hierarchy. According to Ambedkar, the essence of the caste system is endogamy — the refusal to intermarry with other castes.

Because caste-privileged people in South Asia had benefited from centuries of preferable treatment before, during, and after colonial rule, they owned a disproportionately large share of the wealth of the country, and thus were able to more easily qualify under U.S. immigration rules.

As a result of gains made during the civil rights movement, South Asian immigrants don’t face as much racism, with many coming to Seattle to work in the technology sector. However, casteism remains a factor, even in the diaspora. A local tech worker and community organizer, who wished to remain anonymous, said casteism shows up a lot in tech worker communities, influencing who is let in or out of people’s social circles.

“You almost never see people who are from Dalit backgrounds or Bahujan backgrounds or Adivasi backgrounds make it to the U.S.,” they said. “But even if they do make it, I’ve since learned that there’s a lot of casteism in how South Asians interact with each other.”

In its 2018 report Caste in the United States, Equality Labs said that 1 in 3 Dalit students reported being discriminated against in the education system, while two-thirds of Dalit workers in the United States said they were treated unfairly at their workplace.

In 2020, the state of California sued the communications technology company Cisco, alleging that the company allowed managers to harass a Dalit worker and then retaliate against him when he complained to HR. Since the lawsuit was filed, other workers across Silicon Valley have come out with similar complaints of caste discrimination.

“It’s telling that the universities and the tech companies haven’t recognized caste as a protected category in the anti-discrimination policies until recently,” they said.

Some within the South Asian community, such as the Hindu nationalist-aligned lobby group Hindu American Foundation (HAF), are opposing the new anti-caste discrimination efforts. According to Deutsche Welle, the HAF said that the recent CSU anti-discrimination measures “will cause more discrimination by unconstitutionally singling out and targeting Hindu faculty of Indian and South Asian descent.”

Amazon, which is headquartered in Seattle, posted a webpage detailing its “human rights principles” in 2020, which included equal protection for people based on a number of criteria, including caste.

Amazon and Microsoft, a tech company based in Redmond, have not answered requests for comment.


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cbabe May 2022 OP
Karadeniz May 2022 #1