A private liberal arts college in Maine is prohibiting caste-based discrimination, a system based on inherited wealth and social status.
Colby College announced it had added caste to its nondiscrimination policy on Tuesday, saying, "Like racism, casteism is a form of descent-based discrimination, where one’s family background determines to which caste they belong at birth."
"Often visualized as a pyramid, those in the dominant caste, or at the pyramid’s top, have access to opportunities aided by generational accrued wealth. But moving down, opportunities shrink for lower castes, especially for Adivasis (indigenous people of South Asia) and Dalits (the most oppressed in the caste system) as they’re seen even lower than the lowest caste," the school continued. "Similar to racism, dominant castes systematically oppress Dalit Bahujan (oppressed castes), whether by segregation, violence, or discrimination."
Sonja Thomas, an associate professor and department chairwoman of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, spearheaded the policy change.
"I hope this will be a model for other schools," she said. "What a ripple effect that could be."
The caste-based system is seen in some countries, such as India, but the notion that it is "this weird ancient thing tied to Hinduism that happens elsewhere" is a "misconception," Thomas said.
"[Caste] discrimination happens across religions ... [and] has an impact on students — both South Asian Americans and other races too — in higher education and their learning," she continued.
Several institutions of higher learning have made headlines for race-based policies, such as reports that a California professor was suspended for refusing to grade black students more leniently and that a Washington university offers separate housing to a Black Affinity Housing program that "celebrates the diversity of Black and African American people and culture."
Colby is the second college to enact the new nondiscrimination policy behind Brandeis University in Massachusetts, which added a ban on caste system discrimination to university policy in 2019.
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Original Author: Misty Severi
Original Location: Maine liberal arts college prohibits caste-based discrimination