On Friday, September 29, the Fresno city council unanimously voted to outlaw caste-based discrimination by amending the city’s municipal code. Fresno is the second American city to take this step, after Seattle

Apart from caste in the South Asian context, the Los Angeles Times reports that this vote also bans caste-based discrimination against Indigenous groups. For instance, the indigenous Oaxacan community is at the bottom of Mexico’s casta system of hierarchy and faces discrimination as a result. The combined efforts of the city’s Sikh and Oaxacan community helped produce the 7-0 council vote against discrimination on the basis of caste and indigeneity. 

In a press statement, Fresno City Council Vice President Annalisa Perea said, “While we acknowledge that discrimination won’t end overnight, our City took bold action by passing this anti-discrimination policy to strengthen civil rights protections against caste discrimination.” 

Caste discrimination in the U.S. has become a contentious issue among the Hindu community over the past few months. The catalyst was SB 403 – also called the ‘caste bill’ – introduced by California Senator Aisha Wahab in February. This bill seeks to outlaw caste discrimination in the state, the first law of its kind in the United States. The California Assembly and Senate have passed this bill and it is now on Governor Newsom’s desk. 

If Newsom signs this bill into law, California will become the first American state to outlaw caste discrimination.

This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

Tanay Gokhale is a Community Reporter at India Currents through the California Local News Fellowship cohort of 2023. Born and raised in Nashik, India, he moved to the United States for graduate study in...