Caste within the USA, Episode 5: On social isolation because of caste networks within the diaspora
‘Caste In The USA’ is a podcast sequence analyzing the pervasiveness of caste discrimination amongst Indians within the US, hosted by Equality Labs’ Thenmozhi Soundararajan. That is Episode 5.
Editor’s observe: DD Freedishnews is holding a sequence of conversations with Indians within the US, throughout its campuses, workplaces and households, to grasp how caste discrimination pervades the neighborhood simply as a lot because it does again house in India. Hosted by Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Dalit rights activist, artist, technologist and govt director of Equality Labs, the podcast cracks taboos about caste amongst Indians within the US. Take heed to extra episodes right here.
In Episode 5:
Thenmozhi Soundarajan (@dalitdiva) is again with a brand new episode of the podcast, which focuses on social isolation because of entrenched caste networks within the diaspora.
Talking to Thenmozhi is Priyanka, a Dalit skilled who has lived within the US for a few years. Priyanka has witnessed conversations round caste being silenced since she immigrated there as a highschool scholar.
“My first interactions with the diaspora was with Indians who have been within the overseas service. And down south it turned very clear to me how the Indian state performs a really key position in crafting the narrative round caste, in that it doesn’t simply make it invisible, [but also] pushes a story of this numerous democracy with a wealthy flourishing tradition, so these have been a number of the first conversations and gathering,” says Priyanka of her early years within the US.
By means of the course of the dialog, the 2 spotlight a number of cases the place their identities have been invisibilised within the diaspora. Questioning this was met with gaslighting and gatekeeping throughout the neighborhood, together with academia that tried to silence the oppressed.
“There have been no overt discussions on caste, you can see the way it shapes social dynamics, you can see the segregation. My mother and father would solely really feel secure socialising or confiding in others who have been Dalits or decrease castes and naturally, there weren’t many to start with and these establishments are hierarchical to start with,” Priyanka added.
The roots of the matter are deeply entrenched, additional highlighted by the obstacles Priyanka confronted whereas engaged on a dissertation round caste bias.
“I selected to write down a thesis on caste in India particularly taking a look at reservation quotas, a really exploratory undertaking…Once I did attempt to attain out to an Indian professor [who] taught South Asian historical past he received very antagonistic and informed one thing like ‘I’m attacking the hand that fed me’ close to me asking for extra than simply quotas for Dalits. So , these have been the forms of cases that informed me how silencing of individuals occurs once they wish to converse up about Dalit id, rights or just simply ask for extra,” stated Priyanka. Tune in to hearken to her journey of navigating caste bias in addition to reaching self-acceptance regardless of of it.
Take heed to Caste within the USA, Episode 5 right here:
Learn the entire transcript for Episode 5:
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: Jai Bhim and Jai Savitri, everybody. I’m Thenmozhi Soundararajan, and that is Caste In the US with DD Freedishnews. In the present day’s episode is an exploration of the social isolation that outcomes from caste within the diaspora. Becoming a member of us is Priyanka, a Dalit skilled who has lived within the US for a few years. She is going to share her personal journey to self-acceptance and likewise the problem of navigating a casteist diaspora. Welcome Priyanka and Jai Bhim.
Priyanka: Jai Bhim Thenmozhi, thanks for having me.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: So Priyanka, when did you immigrate? And what have been your first impressions of the diaspora?
Priyanka: Certain, so I moved to the US about fifteen years in the past after I was in highschool. And since then general its been a really isolating expertise. We didn’t come right here with the intention of immigrating in any respect. One in every of my mother and father labored for the Indian authorities however I ended up staying again for larger training and I work right here now and I’ve a life right here. So my first interactions with the diaspora have been really with Indians who have been within the overseas service. And down south it turned very clear to me how the Indian state performs a really key position in crafting the narrative round caste, in that it doesn’t it simply makes it invisible and pushes a story of this numerous democracy with a wealthy flourishing tradition, so these have been a number of the first conversations and gathering.
There have been no overt discussions on caste you can see the way it shapes social dynamics, you can see the segregation. My mother and father would solely really feel secure socialising or confiding in others who have been Dalits or decrease castes and naturally there weren’t many to start with and these establishments are hierarchical to start with. my first consciousness of caste really got here from my mother and father’ experiences and naturally there may be a lot stigma round reservation quotas and degradation actually begins from there that you simply don’t belong right here, the resentment, the wanting down on you as a result of your English isn’t good, generally even sabotaging prospects of promotions or any developments. So actually that is backdrop towards which I started taking a look at immigrant diaspora.
And I used to be a youngster after I first received right here so I simply needed to slot in however I bear in mind being actually turned off by how insular most Indian-American circles have been and I felt extra kinship with working class brown and black college students and immigrants. Although I didn’t have that vocabulary for mannequin minority, that concept was very poisonous to me and though we had large monetary burdens I simply couldn’t relate to this race of creating it ‘in America’, to not point out that these circles have been straight up racist. Like I bear in mind certainly one of my Indian man associates telling me in highschool that he was dissatisfied in me as a result of I used to be courting somebody exterior of my race. Actually saying to me ‘I assumed you have been Indian lady’. That concept of respectability and even purity turned very clear early on and it was simply disgusting and turned me off fully and it wasn’t till faculty that I explicitly began speaking about caste, fascinated with caste and having conversations about it. Craving for educational mentors who might assist me make extra sense of it however actually simply couldn’t discover any however regardless of that I selected to write down a thesis on caste in India particularly taking a look at reservation quotas, a really exploratory undertaking on what the influence has been and principally concluding that extra clearly must occur and after I did attempt to attain out to an Indian professor who I feel taught South Asian historical past he received very antagonistic and informed one thing like ‘I’m attacking the hand that fed me’ close to me asking for extra than simply quotas for Dalits. So , these have been the forms of cases that informed me that how silencing of individuals occurs once they wish to converse up about Dalit id, rights or just simply ask for extra. Brahmins get very uncomfortable. Fortunately I had a professor in my division who I had relationship with and who guided me though he didn’t know a lot in regards to the topic – he was white-American – however he actually stood by me and inspired me to pursue the subject and that was a extremely vital lesson for me that those that weren’t really invested in Brahminism might be higher allies. Even after I did begin to discover Dalit students and individuals who have been engaged on caste in grad college it was laborious to search out somebody to simply join with at a human stage and never simply as a factor that needed to be studied or theorized. So there weren’t that many sources or a lot steerage or circles that I might join different Dalit with and I additionally felt self-conscious I couldn’t focus on this even my closest associates with after I was youthful it was one thing that I felt I needed to carry on my own.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: I feel that is such a poignant level that you simply grew up so remoted as a Dalit within the diaspora due to folks wanting to cover, due to the disgrace but in addition as soon as you might be an grownup and are in a position to make your personal decisions trigger my mother and father positively hid as properly – however I feel the challenges of all these establishments that line as much as inform you that and principally gas-light that caste doesn’t exist. It’s shameful to speak about and you might be ‘biting a hand that feeds’ that was like textual content guide a number of the similar precise issues that occurred to me. Like I bear in mind having a dialog with somebody who had been referred to me to assist form a dialog round caste and that particular person was from the overseas service who stated ‘ there isn’t a downside with caste in India. And actually you is likely to be higher served for those who centered on the plight of the crimson Indian and the reservation they’re on versus stirring up hassle the place there may be none, you could have been mis-educated’. And I bear in mind it feeling like a good slap on my face and the go between us was a white-American who was Jewish, who knew as a survivor of the holocaust that I wasn’t mendacity, they knew as a result of they noticed the photographs of atrocity and they also knew I wasn’t mendacity. And this one who that they had revered once they noticed the denial in that concrete type then they understood how deep the impunity went. As a youngster and likewise as a younger grownup navigating these areas the place you could have gate-keepers together with within the academia it is extremely troublesome. I had a professor who additionally stated to me caste was not the axis to look at South Asia and there weren’t any important Dalit leaders and it could be higher to take a look at folks from the leftist ranks as a result of once more the Dalit motion wasn’t important. And that is within the Nineteen Nineties, and if within the 2000s they’re saying this it’s wild. So it is actually poignant and I feel that is likely to be a extremely good spot so that you can share with our listeners how did stuff like this make you are feeling? And what have been a number of the challenges you had inside your loved ones once you guys have been all going by means of this?
Priyanka: Lots of this processing actually occurred a lot, a lot later to the purpose that I’m nonetheless processing so it was not like within the second I used to be realising all this and the purpose about gas-lighting is so actual as a result of there have been instances after I felt this isn’t a sound thesis matter. For years I felt like ‘oh this was not thesis’, I didn’t actually get the validation that I needed though I had a fantastic ally who inspired me however I felt for years that it was not the appropriate factor, am I simply making this up as a result of I didn’t get that validation. Speaking about processing this with my household that’s nonetheless occurring and that is likely one of the hardest issues about this. Due to the disgrace, the erasure we don’t actually have a area to course of this as a household.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: Priyanka do you are feeling there anyone occasion that basically stands out in your thoughts about it? Possibly like a casteist expertise that you’ve had.
Priyanka: There have been clearly cases just like the latest CISCO case the place there may be clear harassment primarily based on caste and it’s a clear violation of somebody’s humanity however in my expertise, the best way I felt it was the opposite approach of creating you are feeling invisible and presenting assimilation as the one path to success and mobility. There’s a actual violence to that as a result of in accordance with that logic the one approach you’ll be able to survive and create a legacy for your self is by denying your self and espousing this dominant tradition even when that tradition denies you your humanity and kills your folks. There may be erasure, there may be by no means seeing your self in textbooks, be taught Hindu scriptures in faculty with none crucial evaluation on caste. It is like me attempting to inform college students who went to Columbia who Dr Ambedkar was, that is Indian college students who noticed an image of Dr Ambedkar at my house. Its issues like that, this logic of assimilation and making your self invisible and your Dalit id invisible has actually penetrated the psyche of my household to the purpose that we don’t actually speak about caste or reasonably the influence it has had on our lives. There may be a lot worry and disgrace that has plagued our lives, there isn’t a actual delight in claiming who we’re. I feel it has had very actual results on our vanity, on envisioning a thriving life for ourselves. I suppose the intergenerational influence this has had on my household has been the toughest I might say, though it is not an occasion it is just like the impact.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: The factor that I assumed was at all times so profound about being out as Dalit was that each time we might publicly converse or there could be a spot the place I might partaking with South Asians somebody would at all times come as much as me in secret and inform me ‘I’m your neighborhood too, that is actually vital, I’m sorry I can’t be out however thanks for being out’ and there was this profound change of oppressed folks seeing one another and likewise recognizing the constraints we’ve with all of this violence round us. So I’m simply questioning, figuring out that these are a number of the limitations what was the turning level for you when it comes to coming into your personal as a Dalit American and when it comes to the way you have a look at this second for your self.
Priyanka: It was neighborhood, and clearly you have been an enormous a part of that it was prefer to be seen. Being like oh wow this can be a dialog that individuals throughout the diaspora are having and we don’t should proceed like this. The dominant form of narrative of diaspora doesn’t should be this empty, stuffed with platitudes Savarna tradition. It was actually that to be sincere, it was like being seen by different folks and to – I’m nonetheless engaged on this – begin to domesticate a neighborhood. It was not simply Dalit folks it was additionally different allies who actually included caste of their evaluation, included caste of their organizing, that basically gave me the impression that wow like an alternate is feasible that no matter I’m combating like has a vocabulary, has an area within the diaspora.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: So Priyanka thanks for saying these issues, they’re so laborious hitting and near the center, I’m simply questioning there are a lot of folks within the diaspora who’re Dalits who’re rising up typically with out figuring out or going through these similar points to return out. I’m questioning when you’ve got any sort of recommendation and even coping methods that you need to provide for different Dalits who’re navigating a few of these similar points.
Priyanka: I imply to be sincere I’ve been coping firstly by reconnecting with our historical past. I talked about assimilation and all that erasure that occurred for me it is actually vital now to regain all that which has been denied to us to get inspiration from our ancestors, encouraging my family members to speak about their journeys and truly doc them. Assimilation is after all a survival tactic however now I’ve the privilege to interrupt out of that mould so actually devoting myself to that. Treating our tales as being worthy of documentation, like oral histories are particularly vital for us I feel so diving deeper into the brilliance of our folks so even after I felt the loneliest Isort of dug deeper into our ancestors and studying and studying that to me felt like I used to be connecting with a chunk of myself.
For different folks I might say discover a neighborhood that’s secure, supporting and affirming, I do know that’s simpler stated than achieved I’ve solely began constructing this now it took me greater than a decade to understand that I wanted this. even earlier than this I’ve been fortunate to have the ability to lean on very supportive black and ladies of color who are very expensive to me however there may be nothing like having a neighborhood the place you don’t have to elucidate your self. You don’t have to coach others in your background, you’ll be able to simply be. You additionally clearly want mentors who perceive caste-oppression no matter which business you might be in.
And that is how my a part of my consciousness was, it was like Dalit people seeing Dalit people actually be on the entrance traces preventing for his or her rights and dignity however its simply not okay that it is just time that they’re valued. It doesn’t at all times should be you, I really feel like society can’t stand it if a Dalit particular person is simply off dwelling their greatest life and that is fairly apparent however self-preservation is so vital for Dalits and actively caring for yourselves.
Particularly for queer Dalit folks, and trans and non-binary folks, particularly when there may be such a battle with psychological well being in our communities. So I might say go to remedy, if you’ll be able to, its nonetheless laborious to search out Dalit therapists after all within the diaspora however there’s a motion to de-colonize remedy and people people to grasp the facility dynamics that include casteism. Studying about Dalit Feminsim has been an actual reward as a result of let’s face it the fact is that almost all Dalit area are fairly male dominated, and patriarchal so attempting to domesticate a really inter-sectional approach of being and centering Dalit girl that’s helped me navigate issues. And in addition my background is in Worldwide Affairs so it has been very useful to have an internationalist outlook on caste and battle to create trans-nationalist solidarities.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: I’m simply questioning, one query that can also be stemming from this dialog is basically what do you wish to inform savaranas who’re listening? As a result of I feel once we are speaking in regards to the improvement of caste within the diaspora it is not simply one thing that occurs to Dalits, it is really one thing that’s being actively cultivated, constructed and invested in by networks of caste privilege. So what would you say to the Savarnas listening who’re actually angered and moved by what you might be saying? What ought to they be doing subsequent?
Priyanka: I might say you could have plenty of work to try this that is your downside. That is the doing of you and your ancestors and you will need to do the labour now of undoing it. Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi folks bear the brunt of caste-oppression and it’s been inhibiting our personal potential. Now we have been those on the entrance traces of each motion, of all of the organizing that occurs towards casteism and so it is time to make the connections between the rise in casteism and all of the linkages the political, the capital, the tech linkages which are rooted right here within the diaspora that gas the rise of casteism. In somehow you might be complicit. That is larger than you as a person, it doesn’t matter for those who go to each BLM protest or you might be doing loads in your neighborhood we simply can not afford to not incorporate caste into the framework of social justice through which you use. So you may name your self progressive however if you’re not doing one thing actively to undo caste it is not sufficient. It will troublesome, whether or not you realise it or not, Brahminism is a central a part of your id as a Savarna and spurning it’ll trigger loads turbulence however that’s what is required, that’s the stage of dedication that’s wanted, you need to step up and make area for Dalit, Bahujans. Additionally suppose past illustration politics and look inward, I feel plenty of Savarnas don’t realise how they reproduce caste, wealth and different privileges, simply because you aren’t roaming round with a bio-data doesn’t imply this isn’t occurring. Savarna areas are so exclusionary to start with. Cease making memes about Indian matchmaking present and begin doing one thing to annihilate caste.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: So my take away from that’s we’d like much less memes and extra organizing would that be proper Priyanka?
Priyanka: Certain or like the appropriate meme like if they’re subversive about caste certain however plenty of them at present are simply empty and they’re really not difficult Savarnas. So extra memes maybe however difficult Savarnas and difficult caste.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: Hidden in what you might be saying can also be that for South Asians within the diaspora there’s a consolation hiding throughout the class of Brownness and be submerged within the wounds from white supremacy however probably not have a look at the truth that South Asians as a class is fraught with all of those divides of caste, nation, language – and actually additionally marked by deep, deep centuries of violence between all of our communities as a result of we could also be racialised into one class by white supremacy however we’ve plenty of fish between us that we have to structurally tackle and the burden of taking over caste by the caste oppressed is simply unacceptable at this level notably when caste privileged communities have far more thresholds for wealth and spaciousness to take this on.
Priyanka: Right, you might be so proper. There have been so many instances when I’ve tried to carry up caste that I’ve been accused of fracturing the neighborhood or stopping unity which is extra vital to folks.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: Are you able to inform us extra about that trigger I’m certain that is an expertise different folks have felt.
Priyanka: Even in progressive, social justice circles If we carry up caste, there may be to begin with like there may be hierarchy of precedence amongst completely different social justice points and caste is simply by no means a precedence and at any time when I’ve tried to offer critique, so for instance with any kind of popular culture look – what was that Mindy Kaling present? By no means Have I ever – after I tried to carry up how the Brahminical household was and the way for me watching it was not a nice expertise in any respect, in actual fact it was considerably triggering, so after I introduced that up it is nearly like you might be identical to a killjoy that took away this very non-public second from Indian-Individuals who have been simply so blissful to see themselves be represented and that truly is the purpose.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan: There may be a lot extra to this dialog Priyanka and we hope to have you ever again as a result of your voice is so insightful, highly effective and deeply poignant. So thanks for becoming a member of us, we actually recognize you and we recognize all our listeners who’ve joined us on-line and we sit up for you becoming a member of us on our subsequent episode. Thanks everyone, Jai Bhim and Jai Savitri.
(Transcription by Pritha Bhattacharya)
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