SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – The Santa Clara County Human Rights Commission is tackling the thorny issue of caste discrimination in education and work in Silicon Valley.
“It is one of the oldest systems of oppression in the world,” said Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality laboratories.
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Equality Labs is an advocacy group that works on behalf of the Dalit community, better known as the Untouchables of India.
“Caste is a system of social exclusion which is similar but not the same as race. And if that determines your whole life, ”explains Soundararajan.
For Soundararajan, India’s crusade against the caste system is both principled and deeply personal. Her family is Dalit and immigrated to the United States to escape the rigid social hierarchy of their homeland.
“Many of our oppressed communities fled to the United States to escape caste apartheid. But we never expected to see it recreated here, ”she said.
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Sadly, she says much of the bias and bigotry in this system has been transplanted to the United States and has taken root in communities with large Indo-American populations like Silicon Valley.
Several members of the Dalit community and their supporters plan to approach the Human Rights Commission to discuss their experiences with caste discrimination.
They want the commission to recommend that the supervisory board make caste a category legally protected against discrimination such as race, age, gender and sexual orientation.
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“People oppressed by caste deserve protection. We don’t deserve to live by hiding who we are and how we were born, ”Mr. Bangar said.