In recent months there has been a strong push to address potential cases of caste discrimination occurring at businesses and on college campuses by adding caste as a protected category for purposes of discrimination policy.
We vehemently oppose all forms of prejudice and discrimination. Hinduism teaches that the Divine is equally present in all beings. Prejudice and discrimination against anyone violates this most profound and fundamental teaching. We believe incidents of alleged caste discrimination should be thoroughly investigated.
But what recourse do potential victims have?
Existing US Federal and state law provides the best route to handling these incidents. Discrimination based on national origin is already prohibited under US law, as is ancestry and ethnicity under many state laws and public and private sector employment policies.
National origin, ancestry, and ethnicity have been interpreted as protecting against discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived birthplace, ancestry or descent, culture, or language — all of which are social markers associated with the various theories and understandings about caste.
Every protected class under US civil rights law, namely race, national origin (ancestry/ethnicity), gender, religion, disability, age, and now sexual orientation are broad, facially neutral, universal classes. They seek to address well documented bases of discrimination broadly.
Caste as a specific category is problematic because it singles out and targets people of Indian descent given the singular and strong association of caste and a caste system with India.
Caste as a specific class also suggests that there is a prevalent form of prejudice and malice amongst only people of Indian and/or South Asian descent and Hindus that is so entirely different and abhorrent that they should be marked a suspicious class on the basis of their race, national origin, ethnicity, or religion and specifically monitored and policed.
This in itself is discriminatory in light of the fact that prejudice and discrimination based on social backgrounds such as clan, class, sect, tribe, or other factors is prevalent within all countries and cultures.