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Caste discrimination is Big Tech’s biggest problem and its best-kept secret

Caste discrimination is Big Tech’s biggest problem and its best-kept secret

Caste discrimination is Big Tech’s biggest problem and its best-kept secret

Caste discrimination is Big Tech’s biggest problem and its best-kept secret

America’s most prominent caste equity activist, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, was slated to give a talk at Google in April, for Dalit History Month. She was ready, she said, to explain to one of the world’s largest tech companies that caste oppression is a problem — and that it probably exists under its roof, too.


Kamala Harris: Why does caste matter? | With Thenmozhi Soundararajan

She was armed with years worth of stats gathered through her civil rights organization, Equality Labs, which show that two-thirds of Dalits, those who have been historically oppressed under India’s caste system, have faced discrimination in their U.S. workplace. 

But as news spread of her impending appearance, not everyone at Google was happy. A handful of Hindu employees said that they felt “targeted” on the basis of religion, a company statement and several anonymous interviews confirmed. They appealed to Google leadership asking that the speech be canceled, and so it was. 

Soundararajan was informed her talk would not go forward, The Washington Post first reported. 

“It was very troubling that Google News management could not discern disinformation and bigotry,” Soundararajan told NBC Asian America. “We are seeing people who have multiple protected classes weaponize language of equity to avoid confronting the systems that have given them privilege.” 

In a statement to NBC Asian America, a Google representative said the company is against casteism, but Soundararajan’s speech would have been too divisive. 

“Caste discrimination has no place in our workplace,” the company said. “Here, there was specific conduct, and internal posts, that made employees feel targeted and retaliated against for raising concerns about a proposed talk… We also made the decision to not move forward with the proposed talk which — rather than bringing our community together and raising awareness — was creating division and rancor.”

Dalits, or those born into marginalized castes in India’s rigid hierarchies, have faced violence and oppression on the subcontinent for thousands of years. Though the system is now illegal in India, its impacts are still far-reaching and can manifest in every aspect of life. With the growing Indian diaspora in the U.S., the system has been brought to a new continent. 

It’s been two years since California sued tech conglomerate Cisco and blew open conversations about casteism in the U.S. (The lawsuit alleges the company failed to protect an Indian Dalit employee who was being actively targeted by his dominant-caste Hindu managers.)

Since then, a dialogue that employees say was once in the shadows has stirred the entirety of Silicon Valley. 

“No one wants to be the next Cisco,” Soundararajan said. 

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

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