Seattle to ban caste discrimination
The Seattle City Council added caste to the city’s anti-discrimination law, making it the first U.S. city to specifically ban caste discrimination.
Demands to ban discrimination based on caste, a division of people based on birth or ancestry, are growing among South Asian diaspora communities in the United States. The movement has received backlash from some Hindu-Americans who claim such laws vilify certain communities.
Supporters of the ordinance, which was approved by a 6-to-1 vote on Tuesday, say caste discrimination transcends national and religious boundaries and, without such a law, those facing caste discrimination in the United States would be protected. won’t be done.
The ordinance is controversial, especially among the South Asian diaspora. Proponents argue it is necessary because caste is not covered under existing civil rights protections. Opponents of the measure say it defames a community already subject to stigma.
Kshama Sawant, a city councilor and socialist and the only Indian-American on the city council, said her proposed ordinance would not identify a particular community, and that caste discrimination would divide national and religious boundaries. He said he explained how he got over it.
The origins of the caste system in India can be traced back 3,000 years as social stratification based on occupation and birth. This is a system that has evolved over the centuries under Muslim and British rule. The suffering of those at the bottom of the caste pyramid, known as Dalits, continues. Caste discrimination has been outlawed in India since 1948, the year after it gained independence from British rule.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan, founder and executive director of California-based Equality Labs, said Dalit activists from both inside and outside Seattle gathered at Seattle City Hall in support of the ordinance.
The United States is the second most popular destination for Indians living abroad, and the US diaspora is estimated to have increased from about 206,000 in 1980 to about 2.7 million in 2021, according to the Migration Policy Institute. I’m here. South Asians living in the United States are up from her 3.5 million counted in the 2010 Census. Most of them trace their roots to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Over the past three years, several college and university systems have moved to ban caste discrimination.
In December 2019, Brandeis University near Boston became the first U.S. university to include caste in its non-discrimination policy. The California State University System, Colby College, Brown University, and the University of California, Davis have all adopted similar measures. Harvard enacted caste protection for student workers in 2021 as part of a deal with the Graduate Students Union.
Seattle’s measures were supported by Dalit activist-led organizations such as Equality Labs. The group says caste discrimination is prevalent in diaspora communities manifesting in the form of social marginalization and discrimination in housing, education and technology sectors, where South Asians play key roles.
Opposition to the ordinance comes from groups such as the Hindu America Foundation and the Hindu Coalition of North America, who claim it unnecessarily singles out communities already vulnerable to discrimination in America.
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