Seattle becomes first U.S. city to ban caste discrimination

Supporters of the ordinance passed by a 6-1 vote on Tuesday say caste discrimination transcends national and religious boundaries.

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council has added caste to the city’s anti-discrimination law, becoming the first city in the United States to prohibit caste discrimination.

Calls to eliminate caste-based discrimination, a division of people based on birth or lineage, are growing louder in South Asian diaspora communities in the United States. The movement is being opposed by some Hindu Americans, who argue that such legislation is harmful to a particular community.

Supporters of the order passed by a 6-1 vote on Tuesday say caste discrimination transcends national and religious boundaries and that without such legislation, those who face Caste discrimination in the United States will not be protected.

The ordinance is a matter of controversy, especially among the nation’s South Asian diaspora. Advocates argue it is necessary because caste is not protected under existing civil rights protections. Groups opposing the measure say it would harm a community that has already been the target of prejudice.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a socialist and the only Indian-American on the City Council, said the ordinance she proposed doesn’t exclude a community, but it does explain how caste discrimination transcends national and religious boundaries.

The origin of the caste system in India can be traced back 3,000 years ago as a social hierarchy based on one’s occupation and place of birth. It is a system that has evolved over the centuries under Muslim and British rule. The suffering of those at the bottom of the caste pyramid – known as the Dalits – continues. Caste discrimination has been banned in India since 1948, a year after the country gained independence from British rule.

Thenmozhi Soundararajan, founder and chief executive officer of the California-based Equality Lab, said Dalit activists from Seattle and beyond have gathered at Seattle City Hall to support the ordinance.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, the United States is the second most popular destination for Indians living abroad, with the diaspora estimated to have grown from about 206,000 in 1980 to about 2.7 million in 2021. The Asian American leader group reports that nearly 5.4 million South Asians live in the United States — up from the 3.5 million counted in the 2010 census. originally from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Over the past three years, some colleges and university systems have moved to ban caste discrimination.

In December 2019, Brandeis University near Boston became the first US university to include class in its policy of non-discrimination. The California State University system, Colby College, Brown University and the University of California, Davis have all adopted similar measures. Harvard University has instituted class protections for student workers in 2021 as part of a contract with the university’s graduate student union.

The Seattle measure has the support of Dalit activist-led organizations like Equality Labs and others. The groups say caste discrimination is common in diaspora communities, manifesting in the form of social alienation and discrimination in housing, education and the technology sector where South Asians hold roles. important.

Opposition to the ordinance came from groups such as the Hindu American Organization and the Union of Hindus of North America, who argued that the ordinance unnecessarily excluded a community that was already vulnerable to discrimination. treatment in the US

Clock: KING 5 top stories on YouTube Seattle becomes first U.S. city to ban caste discrimination

Edmuns DeMars

Edmund DeMarche is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Edmund DeMarche joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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