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Equality Labs Commends UC Davis Move Towards Caste Protections

In another historic win for caste equity, UC Davis becomes the first public university in the United States – and the first campus in the UC system – to add caste as a protected class in its anti-discrimination policy. Alongside Colby College and Brandeis University, UC Davis joins universities across the nation in supporting students, faculty, and staff, in the face of rampant caste-based discrimination. This historic decision will impact over 40,000 students who attend UC Davis and the hundreds of thousands of community members who live in the Davis-Sacramento region.

Driven in partnership with caste-oppressed community members, this win is part of a larger national movement for caste equity that aims to protect caste-oppressed students, workers, and communities across the country.

Leaders in the fight for caste equity congratulate this monumental step in recognizing caste as a protected category.

Quotes from students and community:

“I have experienced casteism all my life and never expected to face it at Davis. During my undergraduate career I have faced many micro aggressions related to caste especially in South Asian and Sikh spaces. This decision makes campus a safe place again. That matters so much. I hope this protection encourages more caste-oppressed students to come forward and know that our lives are precious and we deserve a seat at the table free from violence and discrimination.” – J. Kaur, student leader

“I am thankful to UC Davis for making caste a protected class in its policy. However, I hope that folks in diversity and equity are aware that this is only the first step. So much work must be done to create a consciousness and caste competency on our campus community. Further, resources must be mobilized to tell students, faculty, and staff that caste protections now exist, and that they will be supported if they experience discrimination and need to file a complaint. We need a lot more transparency regarding the consequences of perpetuating caste discrimination on campus as well. Doing this is extremely important, given how heinous caste violence is and how much intergenerational trauma exists within caste-oppressed communities. We look forward as an intercaste coalition of staff, faculty, and students to working with the University to make the campus safe for all students.” – Radhika, student leader

“I am hopeful that caste as a protected class will provide more security to those who have been affected by casteism. This will not only aid in future advocacy work to raise awareness and competent understanding about caste in the South Asian context, but also to debunk the widespread anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, anti-Sikh, and anti-Christian sentiment present across many campus communities. As a member of a caste-oppressed faith I know that this addition will do a lot for our fellow students who have been afraid to come forward about these incidents. With this win we hope to create more equity, more harmony, and more possibility for all of us.” – student leader

“UC Davis has a casteism problem. As a Dalit, I did not feel safe disclosing my caste and had to pretend I was part of their caste in order to not experience exclusion or bullying. The way casteism shows up is insidious and it’s time to discuss it.” – Manu, student leader

“The recognition of caste as a protected class at UC Davis is an important step toward California’s leadership in the historic battle for caste equity across the nation. UC Davis joins other universities, the California Democratic Party, the Cal State Students Association, and many more institutions who understand we must be explicit in providing legal protections for caste-oppressed Americans.” – Amar Singh Shergill, California Democratic Party Executive Board Member and Progressive Caucus Chair

“The courage of the UC Davis intercaste coalition is inspiring. These leaders have worked tirelessly to make this win happen while also supporting students experiencing caste discrimination. These students represent the future of our communities and we need to follow their lead as they create American institutions that are caste equitable for all. We congratulate UC Davis for standing on the right side of this issue and look forward to the campus implementing this policy for the betterment of all of our communities.” – Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Executive Director, Equality Labs