Seattle has become the first city in America to ban caste discrimination, highlighting the importance of tackling social hierarchies that continue to plague societies around the world. Despite caste discrimination being banned in India since 1948, it continues to persist and travel overseas, with Seattle being a prime example. The city has a large South Asian population, with many working in the tech sector, and supporters of the bill say the caste system is still being used in the United States to discriminate within the workplace, housing, retail, and sometimes in public places. In the future, it will be identified in its own class alongside race, religion, and gender identity.
Caste goes back some 3000 years, and it’s a very ancient form of social hierarchy that originally divided Hindus into four main categories. For centuries, it bestowed many privileges on the upper castes while sanctioning the repression of the lower castes, but no class was more discriminated against than the Dalits, the outcasts.
Seattle Becomes First US City to Ban Caste Discrimination
The UK government promised to add caste as a specific category within the Equalities Act of 2010 in 2018, but then backtracked, stating that there was no need to legally distinguish between race and caste. Anecdotally, there have been instances of caste discrimination in the UK. Wherever a large group has brought a system that has existed for thousands of years, it’s likely that some of the systems of prejudice that have come with it are embedded among them.
Caste is one of the oldest forms of social hierarchy and human oppression anywhere in the world, and it manifests in many respects outside of the originating place, Southeast Asia. When it travels throughout the world, it can carry some of the same originating hierarchies with it. More broadly, caste is a universal form of human division that can surface in any hierarchical society, including that of the United States. Cast essentially is an arbitrary artificial graded ranking of human value in a society. It’s what determines one’s value, access to resources, purpose of competence, even the dehumanization and violence that can be asserted to enforce and maintain people’s place in that hierarchy.
Living with caste in the United States is like living in an old house, where you may not want to go into the basement when there’s been a flood or some problem in the basement, but not going into the basement means that you’re not somehow avoiding what is there plaguing you. Whatever is going on will be lurking regardless of whether you know about it or not. Ignorance is no protection against the consequences of an action. When you take possession of an old house, you did not build the uneven pillars and joists and beams or the trade wiring or the corroded pipes.
Addressing Caste Discrimination: Solutions for a More Equitable Society
One possible solution is to implement diversity and inclusion training programs that address caste discrimination and other forms of discrimination in the workplace and beyond. These programs can educate employees on the negative effects of caste discrimination and how to prevent it from occurring. Additionally, companies can create policies that explicitly prohibit caste discrimination and provide channels for reporting such incidents.
Another important step is to amplify the voices of those affected by caste discrimination. This includes giving oppressed caste individuals a platform to share their stories and experiences and supporting advocacy groups that are working to combat caste discrimination. By bringing greater awareness to the issue and creating a culture of accountability, we can work towards a more just and equitable society for all.
In conclusion, caste discrimination is a pervasive issue that continues to affect millions of people around the world, including those living in the United States. While the recent ban on caste discrimination in Seattle is a positive step forward, much more work remains to be done. By educating ourselves and others, implementing policies and programs that address caste discrimination, and amplifying the voices of those affected, we can work towards a more just and equitable society for all.