- Let us help us heal the divisions and build a future where caste discrimination is eradicated and commit to fostering a society that upholds the dignity and equality of all its members.
Caste discrimination has inflicted deep wounds on immigrants that come from caste oppressed societies — perpetuating inequality and division for centuries. Healing from the scars of caste discrimination is a complex process that requires the collective efforts of individuals, communities, and institutions.
This is why we need California State Senator Aisha Wahab’s new bill SB-403 to end caste discrimination. As our historic bill leaves the legislature for the governor’s desk it has sparked a necessary conversation in the South Asian American community about these horrific systems of discrimination. The bill did not divide our community, we were already divided by severe discrimination, bigotry, and violence.
As a leader in Californians for Caste Equity Coalition I believe that the only way forward, the only way to heal from caste discrimination is to break the silence, clarify the law and work towards reconciliation.
Education plays a pivotal role in dismantling caste discrimination by challenging deep-rooted biases and misconceptions. Comprehensive and accurate teachings about caste discrimination should be incorporated into school curricula and educational materials. By educating future generations about the history, impact, and injustice of caste discrimination, we can foster empathy, understanding, and a commitment to building an equitable society.
I know this work personally. I have had rich conversations across caste, religious, and class lines in the process of organizing on this bill. Some of these conversations have not been easy but they have always been illuminating in the ways that trauma has really impacted the unity of our community.
I have sat with the children of bigoted caste privileged people, some of whom have founded the opposition organizations and listened to their painful stories of breaking away from their lineages of violence and extraction. They in turn have centered my own experience of caste discrimination as I shared painful stories of bullying in my primary school and discrimination in university and professional spheres. It was terrifying at first to share openly across the caste divide especially given how much gaslighting Dalits like myself face.
And yet by committing to healing we have now created strong bonds that allow us to stand shoulder to shoulder to end caste and work towards reconciliation. It was very healing for me to have a dominant caste ally acknowledge the historical injustice of caste and offer an apology for past wrongs while also committing to equality. This was a necessary foundation to healing, reconciliation, and unity.
Healing requires empathy and dialogue between individuals from different castes. Safe spaces allow people to engage in honest conversations, share their experiences, and listen to each other’s perspectives without judgment. By promoting empathy and active listening, we can bridge the gaps between communities and promote healing and understanding. Initiatives that facilitate inter-caste dialogue, such as community forums, workshops, and cultural exchanges, can build trust and foster unity.
But I want to be clear. This healing work cannot happen until we address the violence and discrimination that is happening now.The California legislature must enact and enforce laws that protect marginalized communities, ensure equal access to opportunities, and prohibit caste-based discrimination. These reforms are the first crucial step towards healing for we cannot reconcile if we have not stopped the source of our pain.
Healing from caste discrimination requires a collective effort from all members of society. Individuals, communities, educational institutions, religious organizations, and governmental bodies must actively work towards eradicating caste-based biases and promoting social justice.
While it can be a challenging journey by prioritizing education, empathy, dialogue, legal reforms, and economic empowerment, we can work toward reconciling the deep wounds caused by caste discrimination. Let us help us heal the divisions and build a future where caste discrimination is eradicated and commit to fostering a society that upholds the dignity and equality of all its members.
(Top photo, Californians for Caste Equity Coalition)
Karmegam Jayaraman is a technologist who is committed to ending caste and racial discrimination and works at the intersection of tech, equity, and social justice. She is a proud member of the Californians for Caste Equity Coalition.