Making caste a protected category is a critical step toward addressing the problem of caste in America. To protect oppressed castes in the United States, we have to be willing to insist that civil rights extend to communities whose oppression is still hidden.
Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor at Gallatin and Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, and Ajantha Subramanian, Professor and Chair at Harvard’s Department of Anthropology, have co-authored a New York Times op-ed article titled “Why Is Caste Inequality Still Legal in America.”
The article discusses the history of immigration policies based on rigid racial hierarchies and explores two recent lawsuits that have helped bring caste discrimination issues to light. They argue that making castes a protected category under federal law will allow for recognition of the disadvantage by both caste and race. “Caste continues to operate in America, among the South Asian diaspora, but in a very different legal and economic context,” writes Chakravartty and Subramanian. “Together, these cases show how caste operates within America’s racially stratified workforce to create largely hidden, yet pernicious patterns of discrimination and exploitation.”