Explaining caste to America

“Unlike race which is mostly based on skin colour”, the complex nature of the caste system is difficult to explain to Americans, Mr Bhupathi said.

“It’s determined by birth. It determines where you stand in the hierarchical Hindu system,” he said.

Prem Pariyar, a Nepali-origin academic and a lead organiser for Cal State’s policy change, said he often used the metaphor “caste is the bone and race is the skin” from Isabel Wilkerson’s book as an explanation.

The 2020 book – Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents – had compared the histories of caste and race and Mr Pariyar felt it helped spotlight caste discrimination in the US mainstream.

Mr Pariyar’s experience had been undermined by upper-caste faculty at an academic senate of the university who said caste discrimination was “an Indian issue” so why discuss it in an American university?


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