While much has been written and discussed on racism in America, caste-based discrimination, a relatively new form of discrimination in the US, was imported mainly from India.
Now, for the very first time, a Congressional briefing on caste discrimination will be held in the United States on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.
This briefing is being hosted by Equality Labs, in partnership with South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and API Chaya in Washington D.C.
Equality Labs is the first South Asian American human rights and technology start-up that works to support South Asian religious, ethnic, and cultural minority movements. SAALT is a non-profit organisation that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States. API Chaya is a support organisation that deals with domestic violence, sexual assault, forced marriage and human trafficking.
With the coming together of these three organisations, the briefing hopes to highlight the growing problem of caste discrimination in the United States.
In a press statement, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Director of Equality Labs and co-author of the Caste in the United States report has said, “This is a historic briefing because it is the first time Caste discrimination in the United States is being acknowledged and being openly discussed by Congressional staffers.”
Sharing both quantitative data and anecdotal experiences of South Asian Americans who have been impacted by this problem, the goal of the meeting is not just to help Congressional staff understand the problem of caste but to offer solutions to support caste-oppressed Americans, businesses, and institutions in their districts.
To be hosted by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the session will have representatives from all of the major progressive South Asian organisations. The Chief of Staff of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest Congresswoman, is also expected to be present at the briefing.
Pramila, who is the US Representative from Washington's 7th congressional district, is also the first female member of Congress and the first Asian-American to represent Washington in Congress. She is also notable for founding the organisation, originally called Hate Free Zone, following the 2001 September 11 attacks. The organisation later changed its name to OneAmerica in 2008.
The briefing will also provide an opportunity for community leaders from over fifteen states around the country to visit their own constituency representatives and share the findings.
Writing about the opposition that this briefing has faced, Thenmozhi says, “The briefing faces opposition from "upper" Caste organisations who have already tried to get the briefing canceled. But Caste-oppressed people are a critical part of American progressive movements and our allies stood strong with us to make history. On the tail end of Dalit History Month and in Asian-American history, we have one glimmer of possibility.”