Seattle outlaws caste discrimination, a U.S. first
STORY: The move addresses an issue important to the area's South Asian diaspora, particularly the Indian and Hindu communities. India's caste system is among the world's oldest forms of rigid social stratification.
"This will be a systemic legal way to stop this from going on in Seattle," said Preshant Nema, a local activist.
The caste system dates back thousands of years and allows many privileges to upper castes but represses lower castes. The Dalit community is on the lowest rung of the Indian Hindu caste system and have been treated as "untouchables."
Caste discrimination was outlawed in India over 70 years ago, yet bias persists, according to several studies in recent years, including one that found people from lower castes were underrepresented in higher-paying jobs.
Even though India has banned untouchability, Dalits still face widespread abuse across that country, where their attempts at upward social mobility have at times been violently put down.
Debate over the caste system's hierarchy is contentious in India and abroad, with the issue intertwined with religion. Some people say discrimination is now rare. Indian government policies reserving seats for lower-caste students at top Indian universities have helped many land tech jobs in the West in recent years.
Activists opposing caste discrimination say it is no different from other forms of discrimination like racism and hence should be outlawed. U.S. discrimination laws ban ancestry discrimination but do not explicitly ban casteism.