The California state lawmaker who introduced a bill that would make the state the first in the nation to outlaw caste-based discrimination is receiving Islamophobic threats from the U.S. and abroad. State sen. Aisha Wahab says her office was flooded with dozens of hateful calls, hundreds of emails, and individuals yelling at staff in her district office after she introduced the legislation last week.

Caste is a system of social hierarchy that has been especially pervasive in South Asia. It dates back more than 3,000 years but even today is the basis of discrimination for those considered to be lower caste or falling outside the system, including Dalits, who have been ostracized as “untouchables.”

Caste discrimination has made its way overseas to the U.S., too. A 2018 survey by Equality Labs—a nonprofit that advocates for Dalits—found that one in four Dalits in the U.S. say they faced verbal or physical assault and two out of every three reported facing discrimination at work.

Wahab’s proposal comes after Seattle became the first American city to add caste to its anti-discrimination laws last month. California’s university system added caste to its non-discrimination policy across its 23 campuses last January.

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