Among Kshama Sawant’s earliest memories of the caste system was hearing her grandfather
Among Kshama Sawant’s earliest memories of the caste system was hearing her grandfather — a man she “otherwise loved very much” — utter a slur to summon their lower-caste maid.
The Seattle City Council member, raised in an upper-caste Hindu Brahmin household in India, was 6 when she questioned her grandfather about it. He responded that his granddaughter “talked too much.”
Now 50, and an elected official in a city far from India, Sawant has proposed an ordinance to add caste to Seattle’s anti-discrimination laws. If the council approves it Tuesday, Seattle will become the first U.S. city to specifically outlaw caste discrimination.
In India, the caste system's origins can be traced back 3,000 years as a social hierarchy based on birth. While the definition of caste has evolved, under Muslim and British rule, the suffering of those at the bottom of the caste pyramid – known as Dalits — has continued.
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