In a historic move, the Seattle City Council approved an ordinance that now includes caste as a protected class (alongside age, race, etc.).
But does caste discrimination exist in the U.S.? Caste discrimination is a complex and nuanced issue historically associated with the Indian subcontinent. However, some scholars have argued that caste can also be observed in other cultures and contexts, including in the United States.
Caste discrimination has been observed primarily within South Asian American communities, where individuals from certain castes may experience discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion from social, economic, and educational opportunities, particularly those who identify as Dalit.
Some examples of caste discrimination include:
- Employment discrimination: Members of certain lower-caste groups in the South Asian American community have reported facing discrimination in employment, with employers overlooking or rejecting them in favor of higher-caste candidates.
- Marriage discrimination: In some South Asian American communities, individuals may face discrimination in marriage based on their caste. For example, some families may refuse to marry their children to someone from a lower-caste background.
- Social exclusion: South Asian Americans from lower castes have reported experiencing social exclusion from their communities and places of worship. They may be excluded from religious and cultural events or activities or face discrimination in allocating resources and leadership positions.
- Educational discrimination: In some cases, South Asian American students from lower castes may face discrimination and barriers to educational opportunities, including limited access to resources and scholarships.
It’s worth noting that caste discrimination is not limited to the South Asian American community and other forms of discrimination based on social statuses, such as classism. For example, individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds may face discrimination in employment, education, and other areas due to their social status.
We hope to see other cities in the U.S. recognize caste discrimination and make efforts to protect those who are marginalized.