New Report Reveals Caste  impacts lives in the U.S. 

Oakland, CA (November 30, 2017) : ‘Caste in the United States: A Survey Of Caste Among South Asian Americans’  a new report from Equality Labs, produced in collaboration with a team of scholars across the United States cuts to the core of the issue of caste in the South Asian immigrant community. Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Director of Equality Labs and Co-Author of the report says “This report provides some of the first data that caste exists in the American Diaspora and that caste discrimination is pervasive through public institutions, local communities, businesses and workplaces in the United States. It is a serious problem for caste-oppressed migrants that American institutions now need to grapple with as the South Asian community continues to be one of the largest growing immigrants in united states.”

Key findings include:

  • One in three Dalit children face caste-based discrimination in educational institutions

  • Two out of three Dalits are targeted even at their workplace.

  • For a quarter of Dalit’s survey this discrimination has  even taken the form of physical assault.   

Why we should talk about Caste in 21st century United States?

Caste is one of the oldest forms of discrimination and originates in South Asia. It affects over 200 million people and there are millions of caste-oppressed migrants among South Asians in the United States today. Caste hierarchies often follow individuals and families even as they attempt to escape oppression in their countries and begin new lives elsewhere.

Caste in the United States is the first comprehensive survey that details the extent to which Caste has embedded itself in the United States. It includes a social analysis that traces the history of caste in the diaspora, as well as a detailed study of both quantitative and anecdotal evidence from 1200 respondents that illustrates the  full spectrum of Caste in the South Asian American immigrant community.

“The testimonies of many of the South Asian children, students, and professionals lead the way for institutions to now take the lead to create safe spaces for caste-oppressed migrants across the country. This includes building awareness on the issue of caste and providing appropriate measures in schools, workplaces, and businesses for caste equity for all South Asian community members. “ points out Maari-Zwick Maitreyi, one of the primary authors.

Caste discrimination persists within schools, colleges, religious institutions and workplaces.

Although some have claimed that most South Asians no longer don’t identify as being from a certain caste, anecdotes from survey respondents revealed that Caste discrimination persists across the country.

T.R, a Dalit and mother recalls, “When my child was in second grade, she used to have playdates with an upper Caste Hindu kid. Once the kid’s mother had come over to our house and during the course of the conversation, came to know that we follow Buddhism, which is understood to be religion of Dalits. This was the last time that family interacted with us. It angered me and it broke my heart that my child had to face the feeling of being an outcaste in 21st century United States!”

Discrimination in schools and workplaces range from being the butt of degrading jokes by friends or coworkers or in some cases, physical assault and has forced majority of Dalits to keep their caste secret and live in fear of their Caste being “outed”

Dalit women often have to endure both sexism and caste-discrimination in the hands of upper-class Hindu men. “In graduate school, an “upper” Caste man, on  finding out that I was one of the “lower” Castes, tried to tell me that I was probably a “slut” because of that, and tried to sexually misbehave with me,” recounted N.L, a Dalit woman.

Apart from studying the current implications of Caste in the diaspora, the report also makes recommendations for various stakeholders who can work with the South Asian community to sensitize themselves to the issues of caste and work towards building more equitable spaces.

“This report is the first of its kind in the United States. And it is our goal that we take this opportunity to launch conversations around the country that can help address this serious form of discrimination.” Natasha Dar

The report can be downloaded here.

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About Equality Labs

Equality Labs is the first South Asian American women, gender,  non-conforming, trans and queer focused human rights and technology start-up whose leadership centers South Asian religious, ethnic, and cultural minorities. Equality Labs works at the intersection of education, art, and technology to support movements dealing with intractable systems of oppression. We focus on collaborative models that connect multiple disciplines and engender workable, community-driven solutions for the most pressing social challenges of our time.

For more information on this report, please contact Sainaba Ali at hello@equalitylabs.org.