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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Not unexpectedly, the publication of two India Currents articles on caste drew a flurry of letters from readers, some expressing support, a few asking questions about our decision to publish, and others challenging the perception that caste exists. This followed news that the City of Seattle passed an ordinance that added caste to the city’s anti-discrimination laws.
We thank everyone who took the time to read and respond. Here’s our take –
At India Currents we believe it is essential for our community to understand bias. Too often prejudice hides in the shadows. Offering a space for open debate and holding a mirror to ourselves is important if we want to be honest with who we are as a community – warts and all.
We need to be upfront with bias in order to address it.
It’s why we joined California State Library (CSL) Stop The Hate campaign in partnership with the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs (CAPIAA).
Does prejudice exist only if someone personally witnesses bias against fellow Indian Americans because of their ethnic background? That argument negates the lived experience of people who have encountered and are dealing with the negative implications of ethnic discrimination, regardless of what we call it – caste or jati.
Quite simply, if our community imports outdated views about caste and discriminatory practices into their workplace behaviors, there has to be accountability.
Thank you again for giving this issue some thought. If you would like to share your own experience, positive or negative, it would help to create better awareness and understanding of a divisive issue. We welcome all opinions if you would like to write one for India Currents.
We share some letters.
Feb 24, 2023
It is a shame you carry such articles on caste and the ban in Seattle that I absolutely agree with. Jati means Varna Vyavastha, color of skin that is exactly Brahmin of lighter color and it is exactly the slavery.
Feb 25, 2023
I am so happy to see that INDIA CURRENTS has so many stories about our Caste system in the current issue.
I would like to share my personal experiences with you.
My grandparents emigrated from UP 160 years ago to work as Indentured Servants in Guyana. I was never aware that I may be a lower (Dalit), until I came to America.
I met a boy from India at the Chase bank where we both worked in NYC. And we decided to get married, but before that – he took me home to meet his parents in New Jersey. After a pleasant initial discussion, his dad was surprised to learn that I was not from India, but Guyana. He then asked me several more questions and then – he asked me to leave his house.
My “boyfriend” apologised at work, but said he cannot go against his father. Was awkward to continue working at Chase after that, and I had to leave and find work somewhere else.
I am so glad a light is finally shining on the curse of our caste system.
Thank you INDIA CURRENTS !
Feb 22, 2023
I read both sides of the arguments on the issue of “caste discrimination in USA” in India Currents of February 18 and February 20, 2023. I am surprised to learn how hot this issue has become lately, which I thought was a non-issue until recently. I have been in the USA for about 55 years, and we never paid any attention to anyone’s caste at work or in social circles. Once the father of one of my friends, who was visiting my friend from India, asked about another friend of ours whether he belonged to a lower caste. My friend immediately hushed him.
It’s conceivable that some Indians do get discriminated against in hiring and promotions. But I would dare to say that a lot more Indians are discriminated against because of their appearance, the accent with which they speak English, their mannerisms, their personality, their way of thinking, and just the fact that they were not born in this country.
The US Constitution already has laws embedded in it which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, and the like. Caste discrimination is not one of the criteria. Therefore, I am puzzled as to why the corporations or local governments feel that it is necessary to address caste discrimination in their laws.
I won’t be surprised if caste discrimination is being used by certain individuals as a weapon against their supervisors and employers in a scenario in which their work performance has been criticized by their supervisors. If the criticism is unfair, then they need to protest and make their point by resorting to facts, logic, rationality, and evidence. However, if the criticism is fair, then they must sit down with their supervisors and chalk out strategies to improve their performance. Falsely accusing the supervisors is counterproductive for them, as well as their supervisors, and their employers.
When I attended Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, from 1962 to 1967, there was no reservation system to help out low caste folks and the admission was based on strict meritocracy, guided by how well one scored in the joint entrance exam. Now, I understand there is a reservation system and about half of the seats are reserved for low caste folks, which requires lowering the standard for admission. Once these folks get admitted, the professors are under pressure to graduate them even if their performance is not at par. Therefore, I am not surprised if a low caste engineer graduating from the same college is less competent on a job than an engineer who got admitted in that college without the benefit of reservation. If such an engineer gets a poor performance review, then s/he can easily blame the supervisor for indulging in caste discrimination.
The current brouhaha about caste discrimination is currently more a tempest in a teapot but if it continues, then in the long term, the entire Indian diaspora will pay a heavy price for it because the US corporations may become reluctant to hire Indians in the first place.
Feb 25, 2023
Would it be possible to get a list and contact details of all the people who comprised the ‘strong opposition’ to the passing of the ban on caste discrimination? I would love to ‘reason’ with them.
The letter to the editor for Feb 22, 2023 was withdrawn at the writer’s request.