‘Embedded in South Asian American institutions, caste discrimination extending into American mainstream institutions.’
Students of a public university in California have demanded that California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) and the California State University (CSU) include the Indian caste system in their anti-discriminatory policy.
Associated Students, Inc, the student body of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, made the demand in a resolution adopted on March 3.
“Caste is a structure of oppression that affects over one billion people across the world based in birth that determines social status and assigns “spiritual purity,” it said.
The Indian caste system, the resolution noted, has four main caste groups, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras, with lower caste Shudras and those outside the caste system, known as ‘Dalits’ (downtrodden).
“Caste-oppressed groups continue to experience profound injustices including socioeconomic inequalities, usurpation of their land, rights, and experience brutal violence at the hands of the ‘upper’ Castes,” it said.
Citing a survey by Equality Labs, the resolution said, 25 percent of Dalits reported facing verbal or physical assault based on their caste in the United States.
One in three Dalit students report being discriminated against during their education in the US, two out of three Dalits surveyed reported being treated unfairly at their workplace in the US, it said.
Sixty percent of Dalits report experiencing caste-based derogatory jokes or comments in the US, and 20 percent of Dalit respondents report feeling discriminated at a place of business because of their caste in the US, the resolution said.
“All of these inequalities associated with caste status have become embedded in all of the major South Asian American institutions and they extend into American mainstream institutions that have significant South Asian immigrant populations,” it said.
“Caste discrimination has long been overlooked by American institutions, with almost all institutions in the US failing to protect caste oppressed people,” the resolution said.
“Cal Poly has a large and growing body of international students, specifically from South Asia, making caste a global issue that impacts sites of higher education,” it said.
Other leading universities such as Brandeis University have already recognized the importance of adding caste to its anti- discrimination policy, the resolution noted.
The addition of caste within the anti-discrimination policy will make Cal Poly and the larger CSU’s in compliance with the recommendations of Equality Labs, it said.
The addition of caste within the anti-discrimination policy will reaffirm and add to Cal Poly and the larger CSU’s commitment to diversity, equity and support for those most systemically marginalized, the resolution said.
The addition of caste as a protected category should be paired with caste competency trainings during hiring at Cal Poly and the CSU at large, it said.