Home » Seattle Considers Banning Caste-based Discrimination

Seattle Considers Banning Caste-based Discrimination

AP reports:

[Seattle City Council member Kshama] Sawant has proposed an ordinance to add caste to Seattle’s anti-discrimination laws. If her fellow council members approve it Tuesday, Seattle will become the first city in the United States to specifically outlaw caste discrimination….

The national debate in the United States around caste has been centered in the South Asian community, causing deep divisions within the diaspora. Dalit activist-led organizations such as Oakland, California-based Equality Labs, say caste discrimination is prevalent in diaspora communities, surfacing in the form of social alienation and discrimination in housing, education and the tech sector where South Asians hold key roles….

Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, called Seattle’s proposed ordinance unconstitutional because “it singles out and targets an ethnic minority and seeks to institutionalize implicit bias toward a community.”

“It sends that message that we are an inherently bigoted community that must be monitored,” Shukla said.

Caste is already covered under the current set of anti-discrimination laws, which provide protections for race, ethnicity and religion, she said.

Two comments:
(1) It’s not at all clear to me that current antisdiscrimination laws cover caste discrimination. And it’s almost certainly not unconstitutional for a city to ban discrimination based on caste simply because Indian Americans are disproportionately likely to be both the perpertrators and victims of such discrimination.
(2) This is yet one more example of America’s absurd racial classification system. India is an extremely internally diverse of 1.5 billion people, with many different ethnic groups, languages, and religions, and of course a longstanding caste system. Yet when Indians immigrate to the US, they become generic “Asian Americans” by government fiat, and when university consider their “diversity” goals, any Indian American, regardless of appearance, religion, caste, language and so on, is not only considered indistinguishable from any other Indian American, but also from a Chinese, Filipino, or Vietnamese American.


February 2023