I might be low on the totem pole, but at least I’m not as low as you

Despite being officially outlawed by the Indian constitution, the caste system is alive and well in India. According to Neeta Lal, writing in The Diplomat:

40 percent of the schools across sample districts in Uttar Pradesh — India’s most populous state, with 199 million people — teachers and students refuse to partake of government-sponsored free midday meals because they are cooked by dalits (once known as untouchables).

I should probably steer clear of writing about the caste system. I don’t know the first thing about it, really.

Is caste a form of apartheid? Slavery? In the US, slavery was not always racially based. It was economically based – poor Europeans, blacks, and Native Americans were all treated as slaves (or indentured servants) in colonial times. White European indentured servants could gain their freedom after a time; blacks could buy their way out of slavery.

Only after Bacon’s Rebellion (in 1676) did the ruling class begin to wise up and eventually harden the racial caste of slavery in the United States…giving rise to an attitude of “I might be low on the totem pole, but at least I’m not as low as you.”

Look, there is no black and white – no easy right and wrong – in this case. But taken independently and out of full context, the idea that 40% of people from one of the poorer states in India (Uttar Pradesh) would refuse to eat perfectly good food simply because it was polluted by SC cooks…that just seems crazy to me.

Hat tip (for the Dipolmat article) to Hanna Ingber Win (via Twitter).


About Rob

Twitter @robertkatz
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One Response to I might be low on the totem pole, but at least I’m not as low as you

  1. Divya says:

    Caste system comes from the Hindu religion, where the religion divided people into 4 different castes. The Brahmins, Vaishaiyas, Kshtriyas and Shudras. So caste system is much more serious than racial discrimination. The Shudras or now known as Dalits come under the lowest order of caste system. Caste discrimination in the country is prevalent and how. The UP issue is one of the tip of the iceberg. Dalits are not allowed to enter into Hindu temples, they are basically treated as ‘untouchables’ .

    It is sad that inspite of having affirmative action, caste system still continues to be the most ugly form of discrimination in this country. Most of the people in authority don’t talk about it because it threatens their own existence. They generally belong to the upper castes where taking any step against the abolishing caste would threaten their position. Read the biography of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar who was the crusader of the dalits to know more about caste in India


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