BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — In some places like India, a caste system can exist, which determines a person’s standing in society there.
Caste is based on occupation. There are four levels of caste, and you have to stay at the level you're born into. The lower caste level tends to be discriminated against more. Discriminating based on caste is a problem because you have no control over it. It limits your job opportunities, how much money you can make, your social standing, where you live, and go to school among other things.
While the strict separation exists overseas, the California University system is working to get rid of the divide many students feel follows them here in the U.S.
Caste, the system of dividing society into hereditary classes is now a protected category at all 23 California State University campuses.
It was added to the anti-discrimination policy as a push towards greater equity within the CSU system.
Two CSU students said that although they are joyful caste was added to the anti-discrimination policy, they say there is still work to be done.
“Now that caste is clearly named, there is also a necessity to ensure that the folks who are really in charge of the complaints, on the respective campuses, these various investigators now are trained and have that caste competency. So, they’re able to support the survivors that come forward,” said Manmit Singh.
Manmit Singh is a master’s student of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University, which is part of the 23 CSU campuses. He said that during the movement to get caste implemented into the anti-discrimination policy many tried to stop them.
“There were folks that were gaslighting them using intimidation tactics like what do you mean caste exists, and throughout this work we’ve been facing this.”
Recent social work graduate Prem Pariyar started this movement back in 2019, when he noticed he was on the receiving end of caste discrimination not only from those in positions of power but also from peers.
“When I was introduced this way, they would look at me from top to bottom. They looked at me so strangely I immediately understood how biased they were,” said Pariyar.
Pariyar said one way to know caste is by last name, and when he would introduce himself, people knew right away how they would treat him. That is why he wanted to get caste added to the policy.
“We have heard the idea that there has been discrimination amongst the population based on caste. While we can't necessarily point to those numbers and say we have all these cases represented, there have been examples that have been brought to us,” said Michael Uhlenkamp, Senior Director of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs for CSU.
CSU spokesperson Mike Uhlenkamp said that is why they moved to add caste to the anti-discrimination policy and reiterated that if someone did need to file a complaint the process has not changed.
“They would file that with the title 9 office and the lodge a formal complaint, so whether that's a student and employee, or potentially even someone who is a visitor to the campus, there are different ways to do that. We have it outlined through this process,” said Uhlenkamp.
This policy was added on January 1, 2022, to all 23 CSU campuses, but CSUB was not able to tell us how they plan to implement this policy.
Still, Singh and Pariyar are hopeful.
“The power of commitment to love and justice, is in itself so transformative and is unstoppable. We’re realizing that this work is unstoppable because it’s moving us towards a world that we want to be a part of.”
Uhlenkamp said that equity and diversity will always be at the forefront for all CSU campuses.