OPINION – Following decades of activist struggle, California was poised to be the first U.S. state to outlaw caste discrimination, an ancient form of ancestry-based social stratification endemic to South Asia but also unfortunately upheld by diasporic communities in California.
With state legislators voting 31-5 in favor of Senator Aisha Wahab’s SB403, California might have joined the City of Seattle, the City of Fresno, the California State University System, Harvard University, and a host of other institutions in updating existing civil rights legislation to address this oft-overlooked form of discrimination within America’s South Asian communities.
But earlier this month, Governor Newsom vetoed Senator Wahab’s bill, serving a body blow to the myriad lower-caste individuals (or Dalits) in California who have reported being excluded from employee housing, kicked out of homes by landlords, and losing jobs once others discovered their lower caste. Dalit employees have also reported humiliating treatment from their higher-caste peers and being passed over for promotions due to their status.
In vetoing SB 403, Newsom has not only blocked vital protections for this marginalized community, but also played into the broader political agenda of a group of powerful Hindu nationalist organizations who drove opposition to the bill.
This story was originally published in capitolweekly.net. Read the full story here .