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.
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