Here’s an article from The Wire in India on a topic I’ve wondered about for years but never seen anything about: America importing India’s caste system. Because no white Christian American has ever been guilty of caste discrimination — none of us understand it — the U.S. media has shown zero interest in the topic over the decades.
The Cisco Case Could Expose Rampant Prejudice Against Dalits in Silicon Valley
Networks of upper caste professionals work in tandem to keep out those they see as inferior.
… A number of Dalits in US tech companies point to the irony of their casteist colleagues supporting Black Lives Matter while continuing to suppress Indians from so-called lower castes.
While caste discrimination among Indians in US workplaces is not new, tech companies largely ignored the practise, primarily because, in strictly legal terms, it is not unlawful.
A Dalit person contracted with an American multinational told The Wire that his offer letter talked of not allowing for discrimination on the basis of race or religion, but made no mention of caste.
It would seem to me that caste discrimination is religious, racial, and ethnic discrimination. David Reich can tell subcastes apart by their DNA, which shows they’ve been endogamous for close to two millennia.
California’s lawsuit will now make it hard for companies to ignore caste as a discriminatory practice. While the US has no specific law against the Indian caste system, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed the lawsuit against Cisco using a section of America’s historic Civil Rights Act. The Act is an outcome of the movement led by African Americans in the 1960s to end oppression and segregation.
The lawsuit accuses Cisco of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of religion, ancestry, national origin/ethnicity and race/colour. …
More than 90% of Indian immigrants to the US are from the upper castes, says the lawsuit, adding that the complainant, John Doe (a pseudonym widely used in American litigation) was the only Dalit in a team of upper caste Indians. …
In the interest of career growth, he largely avoided working with Indians. “I did have one Indian-American boss, but since he did not grow up in India, he was very liberal and I had no problems with him,” says Raj.
Mohan, another Dalit techie, never experienced caste-based discrimination at work over the past 16 years in the US. This is because he never had an Indian boss. Those who did have Indian bosses found that revealing their views on caste could adversely impact their career, and sometimes even cost them their jobs. …
Soundararajan of Equality Labs repeatedly points out that caste discrimination isn’t about isolated instances of an employee and manager. “Dalit employees are dealing with upper caste networks that operate across companies and share information with each other. So Dalits fear not only retribution from one person or company, but from an entire network that cuts across companies, severely affecting career prospects. These networks form a virtual noose around Dalits, throttling their potential to rise in their careers,” she says.
… While some last names immediately give away a person’s caste, many don’t. So Dalits find themselves being constantly probed to reveal their caste.
One common way Indians is to figure a person’s caste out is by inviting them for Hindu religious worship sessions, such as the satyanarayan katha, at a temple. Raj declined such an invitation from a Brahmin colleague. “At the time he did not know my caste,” says Raj. He says the Brahmin then patted him on the back in a seemingly casual gesture, but one that he felt was actually meant to check whether he was wearing a janeu, a ‘sacred thread’ worn by the dwija castes. “Once he figured my caste out, he immediately stopped socialising with me. Dinner invitations stopped too.” …
In the US, questions can be less direct. … Vegetarianism, long associated with upper caste purity, is often used to figure a person’s caste out. Over time, Mohit has learned how best to answer such questions. “I said that I would eat anything that moved, but my parents were vegetarian.” In other words, he was suggesting that he was born into a Brahmin family. While this is untrue – he is a Dalit and his parents are not vegetarians – it’s a lie he repeats for the sake of his career. …
Dalits talk of the opportunity cost of not being part of upper caste networks.
“Many companies fill vacant positions with internal referrals. Upper caste Indians have the first-mover advantage and misuse the system of internal referrals to fill posts with people from their caste. In addition to excluding Dalits, this system also excludes Blacks and other minorities,” says Raj.
You know, this may sound crazy, but, logically, these Brahmin networks might also work against white Americans, too.
Here’s the report on caste discrimination in the U.S. by Equality Labs that is referenced in the article.