Wednesday, June 12, 2024
72.7 F

    Latest Posts

    Goodbye Constitution Freedom America by Don Jans

    Why is CA caste discrimination bill causing such a ruckus?


    Lynn La  LYNN LA JUNE 8, 2023

    Other than a contentious debate in one of the largest public hearing turnouts for any bill before the Legislature this session, the proposal by Sen. Aisha Wahab to ban caste discrimination sailed through the Senate with relative ease (and a 34-1 vote).

    But the first-term Democrat from Fremont and her bill will still face a big battle, as opponents marshal their forces in the Assembly.

    As CalMatters’ state Capitol reporter Sameea Kamal and Jeanne Kuang from CalMatters’ California Divide team explain, caste is a centuries-old class system in South Asia that is determined by birth. Dalits or “untouchables” are in the lowest rung, while Brahmins are in the highest.

    The issue has grown more notable in California as more South Asians immigrate into the state: California has nearly 1 million self-identified South Asians, and there’s a concentration in Silicon Valley, where caste issues have surfaced at tech firms.

    Wahab’s bill would include caste as a protected class to the state Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and the state policy that bans discrimination in public schools. In the workplace, people in lower castes say that they receive less pay and fewer promotions from those in higher castes.

    But opponents of the bill argue that the law would be redundant and exclusionary in itself: Ancestry is already protected and adding caste could single out the South Asian community.

    • Samir Kalra, managing director of the Hindu American Foundation: “Creating an entire separate category and law that only applies to minority communities is inconsistent with our constitutional norms.”

    Though Wahab herself is not South Asian (she is Afghan-American), her district has many South Asian residents. Because of the measure, she has received threats and is facing a recall campaign.

    The only two South Asians in the Legislature — Democratic Assemblymembers Ash Kalra from San Jose and Jasmeet Bains from Bakersfield — have remained relatively mum about the matter. Bains, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, did not respond to CalMatters’ requests for an interview.

    Proponents of the bill, such as Naindeep Singh, the executive director of Jakara Movement, say it’s needed because “casteism is still practiced,” even in the U.S., and those who believe it will lead to further discrimination are saying so in bad faith.

    • Singh: “The argument that the bill singles out South Asian communities is a canard. It is rather simple: If you don’t discriminate against others based on caste, you have little to fear with SB 403’s passage.”


    - Advertisement -
    0 0 votes
    Article Rating
    Notify of

    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments

    Latest Posts


    Don't Miss


    To receive the news in your inbox

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x