Understanding caste discrimination

Tennessee residents may be unfamiliar with caste discrimination. They may not even have a firm understanding of what a caste is or what it may mean for their neighbors and co-workers. This unique discrimination problem is a growing issue due to the large influx of immigrants from countries that practice a caste hierarchy.

The caste system, which defines social status based on birth, comes primarily from South Asian countries like India. Immigrants from these countries may bring the caste ideology with them to America where it affects workers' ability to get jobs or enjoy the equality they deserve as permanent residents or citizens. An online article highlights key issues of caste discrimination practiced in the United States. It is especially common in industries that tend to employ large numbers of South Asians, especially technology-oriented companies. A survey revealed that 66 percent of members from the lowest class, the Dalits, have faced workplace discrimination in the United States due to caste. They have also faced educational discrimination and even physical assault.

The problem is nuanced and difficult to detect. Unlike racial or gender discrimination, where at-risk individuals are fairly easy to identify, a person's caste is difficult to discern outwardly. Many individuals from lower castes make the issue more difficult by hiding their caste status. Many of the early successful immigrants from South Asia to the United States were from the upper castes, leaving them in positions of seniority that could negatively impact incoming lower-caste individuals.

It is important that employers and employees, especially those in workplaces with large numbers of South Asians, become familiar with caste discrimination and what it looks like. While this is a relatively new issue, such workplace discrimination, has no place in the United States. It may be possible to take legal action against such discrimination.

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