AN APPEAL TO SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE OR OBSERVATIONS ABOUT EVERYDAY CASTEISM IN USA
Historically, South Asian immigrants in the USA were mainly from privileged dominant caste groups. This dominant-caste homogeneity produced a “casteless” narrative in the USA. However, globalization and the proliferation of digital technology opened employment opportunities for Dalits and other oppressed caste groups in America. The arrival of the so-called “lower” caste groups in North America has unsettled the dominant caste groups.
In response, caste-blind-yet-caste-aware Savarnas adopted various strategies to reclaim their hegemonic status. Their tactics are far from physical violence but covert everyday practices leading to social segregation that one cannot often challenge in public.
These practices include rejection of certain food practices in the workplace or social gatherings; actively enabling caste-based networks in the workplace (that eventually produced favoritism); normalizing caste-as-community exclusive associations, advertisements that framed caste as brand capital; a subtle enquiry of one’s educational opportunity to “label” if the colleague made their achievement via caste-based reservation – akin to affirmative action – in India. These innocent enquiries are subtle ways of “outing” one’s caste identity without the victim’s permission to the dominant caste members, leading to everyday segregation.
This was what happened at Cisco in 2020:
At the heart of the Cisco case are two college mates at the Indian Institute of Technology over two decades ago, one Brahmin and one Dalit. Twenty years later, both men made it to Cisco’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. The Brahmin outed the caste of the latter by telling his colleagues that the latter achieved his status through reservation and not “merit”. This led to systematic segregation, conscious put-downs and humiliation in front of other colleagues and impacted the victim’s scope of work. This case was a watershed moment for oppressed caste groups to discuss their everyday casteism. More specifically, testimonies of everyday casteism became a powerful narrative to counter casteless narratives by casteists.
Ambedkar King Study Circle (AKSC) and many others added their names to the original amicus curiae brief sought by the Ambedkar International Centre. One of the AKSC’s strategies was to collect testimonies of everyday casteism to face casteless narratives by Hindutva groups.
Since then, the anti-caste movement in the USA has made significant progress in advancing their agenda. Twenty-six Universities have acknowledged caste as a protected category. In addition, big Tech Corporations such as CISCO, DELL, Amazon and Apple have acknowledged caste as a category used to discriminate against colleagues. For example, Apple has announced it would take steps to sensitize its HR by training on casteist practices. More recently, the State of California has allowed a historic bill (SB403) to ban prejudice based on the caste system.
These are encouraging signs, but we cannot underestimate the power of casteism. It is one of the oldest social hierarchies ever practiced in the world and has sustained several reforms. We continuously witness an onslaught of false narratives and blatant lies in the media fed by the Hindutva and other forms of dominant caste outfits on various issues, including the California textbook issue, Cisco Caste Discrimination case and SB 403.
Babasaheb Ambedkar wrote that if a lie is a big lie – too big for the common man’s intelligence to scrutinize – and if it is repeated continuously, the lie has all the chances of being accepted as truth and if not accepted as truth has all the chances of growing up on the victims of propaganda and win their acquiescence. Therefore, in the USA, Hindutva lies must be exposed to the American public and the South Asian diaspora.
We at the AKSC firmly believe that the American public and lawmakers have to be informed and educated about Hindutva’s blatant lies and false narration about caste discrimination.
WE, THEREFORE, APPEAL TO OUR FRIENDS TO SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES OR OBSERVATIONS OF EVERYDAY CASTE PRACTICES WITH US.
WE WILL ANONYMIZE THE SOURCE, IDENTITIES SUCH AS NAME, LOCATION, EMPLOYMENT STATUS, DETAILS, OR EMAILS.
Our collective testimonies will speak the truth about our oppression and humiliation by dominant caste and Hindutva groups to the lawmakers in the USA and the world.