March 28, 2023

On Tuesday, February 21, the Seattle Metropolis Council will make historical past if it votes sure to incorporate caste within the metropolis’s non-discrimination insurance policies. Outlawing caste discrimination could be the fruits of years of Dalit feminist analysis and organizing that has uncovered caste oppression in the USA and has centered Dalit therapeutic within the battle to finish caste discrimination in all places.

Caste is a hierarchical social system relationship again hundreds of years and practiced all through South Asia amongst folks of all religions. It negatively impacts greater than 1.9 billion folks worldwide and no less than 5.7 million South Asian Individuals, degrading their high quality of life.

It determines who can worship the place, training and profession alternatives, and even private relationships—in essence, caste shapes complete lives. Whereas caste-based discrimination within the US will not be as widespread and overt as in India, the place it has its roots, it exists right here, too.

South Asian immigrants from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, Maldives, and indentured communities all report experiencing caste discrimination within the US. The Equality Labs 2016 Caste in the USA survey discovered that one in 4 Dalits within the US had confronted verbal or bodily assault and two out of each three stated they’d confronted discrimination at work.

This knowledge is additional supported by a forthcoming report from the Nationwide Tutorial Coalition for Caste Fairness and Equality Labs, with the preliminary evaluation of a brand new survey revealing that inside US increased training, 4 in 5 caste-oppressed college students, employees, and college reported experiencing caste discrimination by the hands of their dominant-caste friends.

Additional, three in 4 caste-oppressed stakeholders didn’t report that discrimination of their universities or faculties as a result of caste was not added as a protected class, or as a result of their Variety, Fairness, and Inclusion departments lacked the competence to handle their issues.

This knowledge is backed by troubling testimonies of caste discrimination in workplaces, colleges, locations of worship and companies.

It will probably now not be denied: caste discrimination exists within the US and should be fought with civil rights enforcement.

not alone

This motion is succeeding partially as a result of caste-oppressed folks within the US don’t stand alone. Dalit feminist leaders have an extended historical past of forging collaborations around the globe, advancing a imaginative and prescient of Dalit internationalism rooted in collective liberation. This has led to hundreds of people and 150 organizations who’ve written in from throughout Seattle and the nation expressing their enthusiastic help for banning caste discrimination.

At a time when polarization within the South Asian American neighborhood runs excessive, this solidarity affords a exceptional counter-vision of unity to those that would divide us with bigotry and non secular ethnonationalism,

Our caste fairness coalition is pushed by highly effective interfaith and inter-caste organizations. These embrace Equality Labs, the Ambedkar Affiliation of North America, the Coalition of Seattle Indians, the Indian American Muslim Council, the Nationwide Tutorial Coalition for Caste Fairness and South Asians for Black Lives, amongst others.

Additionally central to this coalition is a community of greater than 30 anti-caste Ambedkarite organisations. Amongst them are the Ambedkar King Research Circle, Ambedkar Worldwide Middle, Ambedkarite Buddhist Affiliation of Texas and Boston Research Group. Many caste fairness civil rights teams usually identify themselves Ambedkarites after the Dalit civil rights chief Dr BR Ambedkar, who was the architect of the Indian structure and a champion of the caste-oppressed.

The North American community of Shri Guru Ravidassia facilities [Guru Ravidas was a social reformer who campaigned against caste] and Sikh gurdwaras across the nation have additionally joined our work.

Authorized and caste students like Kevin Brown, Ann Ravel and Shailaja Paik, in addition to teams just like the Feminist Important Hindu Research Collective and Amnesty Worldwide, have written in help of this work. Even the South Asian Bar Affiliation of North America, the voice of the South Asian authorized neighborhood, has thrown its help behind the ordinance. Longtime civil and human rights leaders like Cornel West, Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy have additionally written passionate letters to the council. West’s letter urges members to “study the lesson from our shameful historical past of anti-Blackness” within the US.

Our path to energy

The highway to this Seattle ordinance was laid by a years-long collaboration amongst teams like API Chaya, Equality Labs, Ambedkar Affiliation of North America and plenty of grassroots organizations within the metropolis.

It began in 2015, once we started participating in Black and Brown solidarity work with the #Dalitwomenfight tour. The tour was centered on Dalit ladies, gender non-conforming and trans leaders talking out in opposition to caste-based sexual violence from the All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, It was a platform to construct solidarity with leaders from Black Lives Matter, employee unions, College of Washington college and college students, in addition to racial and gender justice teams within the metropolis.

This work then spawned an initiative to help caste-oppressed survivors within the metropolis. Amongst our achievements was the primary congressional briefing on caste discrimination with Consultant Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) in 2019.

We’ve additionally spent years conducting workshops to assist our neighborhood start the restore and reconciliation wanted after centuries of caste violence. 1000’s of South Asians have attended these workshops and realized to confront caste in our communities whereas committing to therapeutic from caste violence.

In the meantime, teams just like the Coalition for Indian Individuals of Seattle have mobilized help in opposition to rising ethnonationalism in India — from a Seattle decision in opposition to India’s Islamophobic new citizenship guidelines to internet hosting info classes about caste.

They’ve now spearheaded this present marketing campaign with the workplace of councilwoman Kshama Sawant, who launched this laws in opposition to caste discrimination.

The way forward for the caste fairness motion

A rising democratic consensus in American social justice actions acknowledges caste as a employee, feminist, queer and civil rights situation. Caste discrimination should be addressed by modifications in civil rights legislation in addition to skilled coaching—and modifications throughout the broader tradition.

Dalit staff face systemic discrimination, together with bullying and harassment, casteist slurs, demotion and termination. Wherever South Asians are, caste is just too, whether or not in white or blue-collar jobs—from laptop engineers to restaurant and lodge staff, medical doctors to home staff, and attorneys to nannies. No occupation is untouched by casteism.

Labor organizations understand that caste is a staff’ rights situation. That is why unions and staff’ collectives — from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and Alphabet Staff Union to the just lately shaped Tech Staff Collective for Caste Fairness — have joined us.

Caste can be a difficulty of gender-based violence. Priya Meena, a member of the Seattle-based South Asians Constructing Accountability and Therapeutic group, is among the many ladies who’ve helped clarify how caste discrimination impacts South Asian survivors of home and sexual violence.

Dominant caste companions keep energy and management in relationships utilizing coercion, threats, and emotional and bodily abuse, all of the whereas weaponising caste id to create a harmful setting for survivors. Feminist organizations like Ultraviolet and South Asian Soar, representing hundreds of gender justice advocates across the nation, have additionally provided their help for the ordinance in Seattle.

Caste is a queer situation too: many Dalit queer, non-binary and trans individuals are main this dialog throughout the bigger queer neighborhood about the way to problem the casteism of their dominant caste friends. At a time when so many queer of us are going through dangerous assaults and legal guidelines penalizing gender-affirming care, we have to middle Dalit queers within the battle for caste fairness as a part of the bigger battle for queer liberation.

Moreover, caste has grow to be a rallying level for all these selling non secular freedom and defending survivors of non secular abuse. Caste-oppressed individuals are present in all faiths; all endure excessive discrimination from their dominant caste colleagues. Interfaith organizations and non secular leaders are thus aligning with Dalit folks on this situation.

In some ways, no matter what the Seattle Metropolis Council decides, Dalits have already gained the cultural wars round this situation.

And our calls for are clear. We wish our civil rights and an finish to caste discrimination instantly. The South Asian diaspora around the globe is a part of a world reckoning round caste, and we’re desirous to set the stage for therapeutic. We hope that Seattle opens the door for each metropolis and nation so as to add caste to their non-discrimination insurance policies.

For the work of restore and reconciliation begins with accountability and altering insurance policies to make sure safer workplaces for all. We reject the bigots who would imprison us all inside a world of polarization, violence, and infinite struggling. As a substitute, we select love, and we select a united neighborhood launched from our historic trauma of caste.

This ordinance is one step in that journey. Allow us to heal. Allow us to select freedom.

The views expressed on this article are the authors’ personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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