Caste in America!?!?! Don’t believe the hype

Everyone is talking about this piece from Bloomberg, How Big Tech Is Importing India’s Caste Legacy to Silicon Valley Graduates from the Indian Institutes of Technology are highly sought after by employers. They can also bring problems from home. If you are not a Bloomberg subscriber using “incognito mode” in your browser should allow you to read it. Two comments:

– The piece is mostly about India. Not the USA or Silicon Valley. To me, this indicates there wasn’t much real material in Silicon Valley to report on

– It seems that the American press is recycling the same incidents and quoting the same experts. There’s no deep scholarly analysis, just anecdotes and assertions

Overall, I think there really isn’t much of an issue around “caste” in the USA. Part of it is the fact that Americans of Indian origin are not representative of the demographics of India. 25% are Brahmin, but for the other groups, there is no variation in income education and income (or not much). I’ve seen the data that consulting firms use that is not widely shared. The selective sieve is strong. There are very few self-identified Dalits. About 1%. It could be these Dalits are on the receiving end of prejudice, but there aren’t that many of them for this to be pervasive.

This is not to deny that there aren’t issues with the Indian American community, which is mostly immigrant and dates to after the year 2000. But it’s not a simple and easy morality story that the media and social justice activists want. So they are manufacturing this, and that really angers me, because I dislike lying and propaganda.

21 Replies to “Caste in America!?!?! Don’t believe the hype”

  1. From my vantage point, it seems like part of a long-running campaign to take Hindus down a notch. It can be done geopoltically (“India is no longer a democracy!”), culturally (“Hinduism is bigoted, misogynist and fascistic!”) and now this campaign is being transported to the US tech world, which is where Hindus have a disproportionate economic impact.

    There has always been an undercurrent of racism – surely the cartoons mocking ISRO’s achievements would be a testament to that fact. But what is new is this zeal to constantly find faults, no longer casual racism but an active attempt demonise. Even when the material is weak, as it is here, it fits the agenda so it is being published.

    Maybe I am too conspiratorial, but I do genuinely think a lot of Western neoliberals are starting to view Hindus the way they view white right-wingers, as somekind of deep intractable threat, so better push memes about inherent supremacy/evilness to keep them on the backfoot. Rampant casteism? Check. Deep-seated islamophobia? Yup. Anti-democratic, perhaps even fascist? You bet we’re pushing that meme.

    If you zoom out a bit, it seems pretty clear that these threads are intervowen.

    1. True, partly due to left-islamist alliance. We should not mistake wood for the trees.
      I saw a graph of human rights concern for Libya, it reached a peak before Libya was attacked by Western coalition. After Gaddafi, human rights has reached a peak and not worth taking about. !!!! That is the neo colonial attitude to India behind these left liberal attacks on india, prepping opinion before action

  2. I think the underlying motivations are competition for influence between different kinds of Indian immigrants (academics, journalists, think tankers vs tech workers). Under usual circumstances immigrant academics and other soft science type professionals would carry great clout both in the US and their home country.

    The success and the overwhelming numbers of Indian tech workers upends the usual equilibrium. They become the mediating population between India and the US. I can see this breeding a significant resentment amongst the academia immigrants.

    I also think the world is struggling to come to terms with India's incipient hard power. With China, the equation remains simple. Deal with the CCP and it will take care of the rest. Dealing with India is a lot more demanding, there are all sorts of contact and pressure points one is tempted to bring in to play.

    1. Per my observation, the vast majority of Indian academic in the US (grad students plus professorial staff) were themselves in tech fields. Many such students went on to the tech industry themselves, and many professors held consulting gigs in that industry too.

      Has this been changing in recent years? Are Indians in academia no longer overwhelmingly tech (or STEM in general)?

    2. Vikram, i’d imagine the size of the academic/journalist set of immigrants is proportionally tiny. That said, what you are saying makes sense to me. Different classes of indians are jockeying for who gets to be the informants for the west-india dialogue.

  3. This issue in the tech world is closely related to the ongoing Google issue with HBCU hiring etc. Caste-related discrimination is easy to imagine in the “meritocratic” environment of the tech world where educational pedigree is used to assess potential and impress clients etc. A Dalit graduate (Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe) of an IIT does not receive the same “IIT stamp” as a non-Dalit, once the caste status is known, due to affirmative action making his/her path through the competitive entrance exam much easier…

  4. The upper-middle class elite must be starting to see Desis as big a threat to their interests as working class whites.
    It started with the Irish, then the Jews, then the working class whites and now the Indian immigrant is the villain du jour.

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

  5. Having spent four years as an undergraduate in IIT Kharagpur a couple of decades ago, here’s my 2 cents.

    On obscure portions of walls around the campus, especially in toilets (restrooms), you could find a significant amount of anti-SC/ST stuff. With slurs, like shaddus. From my recollection, they all referred to the differences in standards for SC/ST students with that of the “general” students, which was (and may still be) factual: typically, the highest scores for a quota student were way below the cut off scores for general students. Indeed, I knew one smart person (friend of a friend) who could have chosen to apply in the quota but didn’t, and he was good enough to get into one of the IITs on merit. (For comparison, I saw graffiti about people’s racial characteristics in restrooms at UCLA too, which I attended later.)

    Apart from this, at least when it came to interpersonal relations, I saw almost nothing (I heard one offhand comment once) that I would identify as open discrimination (of course, perceptions are everything, and a quota student may have a very different story to tell, even with the same facts.) Lots of us were from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, wore shabby clothing, spoke non-existent or bad English. There was almost no segregation in our dormitories along any demographic line (quota/region/religion); I say almost because there were indeed certain wings where some demographic predominated, but nobody felt like there was anything pernicious about it.

    It’s possible things have changed a bit since then. I have visited an IIT or two since I graduated, and my impression was that the average socio-economic standard has risen. To the extent that I would have felt out of place had I been a student; e.g., I saw people going to eateries that I couldn’t have afforded in my time.

    So there probably is a story here that deserves to be told, but I don’t think the reporter has done it justice. Another example of woke ideology dumbing reporting down, I guess.

  6. There’s mention of a paper by some French guys who conclude (I haven’t read the paper): Lower-caste students were barely half as likely to get jobs as general-pool students with similar majors and academic performance

    If this is indeed true, it’s a scandal. I totally get what they are saying about some people not having the soft skills or the language skills or the (Type A) attitudes to clear many interviews, but if so, campus administrators (and language/speaking clubs like those that existed in my time) ought to try and address these gaps. Personally speaking, in my time, verbal interviews were very limited. We generally went through a combination of written tests and whiteboard problem-solving, which frankly involved very little application of soft skills (and suited someone like me fine.)

    1. This exists to some degree because the All India Ranks differ a lot. Quite a few companies recruit IIT students not just for their technical skills but also for their intelligence. In my time at IIT Bombay, about 6 years ago, there were some jobs like Consulting and Quant which were, for the most part, only for AIRs under 1000. My friend at BCG conducts interviews for students at IITs and he tells me they gauge intelligence through AIR and hard work through GPA. You’re not going to get a great job unless you shine in both areas and one can’t make up for the other. Over the years, these jobs have become the main attraction for top students and these companies conduct multiple rounds of interviews to gauge the soft skills of candidates as well. I guess an AIR 50(typical general category IITB CSE student) has more confidence than an AIR 1000(typical OBC CSE) or an AIR 3000(typical SC CSE) or an AIR 6000(typical ST CSE).

      1. Green Veggies, would it be accurate to estimate that the 23 IITs cumulatively let in about 12 thousand undergraduates a year?

        Can you elaborate more on All India Ranks? Is it out of 12 thousand students? (or about 10 thousand for the class graduating in 2021). Is it based purely on standardized test scores?

        Do you see general category and OBC continuing to converge in academic performance? Do you think OBC should to dissolved and incorporated into the general category?

        ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        Razib,

        This “MIT South Asian Alumni Association: Casteism and Majoritarianism in India Conversation” helps explain what is going on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEljP9FEKIs
        Some of the speakers are part of the Breaking India Forces. Also called Tukre Tukre Gang. They are a continuation of the imperial project of Karl Marx. In collaboration with the English imperialists a then young Karl Marx wrote 50 articles deconstructing, delegitimizing and critiquing India.

        Note the one Dalit speaker. He made the most sense of the whole group (the others were mostly cultural marxists.) He showed graphs and spoke with pride about how SC academic performance in India was improving over time and how the SC academic gap with non SC students was shrinking. He contrasted this with the academic performance of black Americans with non black Americans, which is: 1) larger than the SC / non SC gap , 2) expanding while the SC / non SC gap is shrinking.

        ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        Green Veggies, do you see the academic gap between SCs and non SCs continuing to shrink? What can be done to speed this academic gap narrowing?

        1. Green Veggies, would it be accurate to estimate that the 23 IITs cumulatively let in about 12 thousand undergraduates a year?

          Can you elaborate more on All India Ranks? Is it out of 12 thousand students? (or about 10 thousand for the class graduating in 2021). Is it based purely on standardized test scores?

          Yeah, that number is roughly correct. I went through this system in 2011 so my knowledge is a bit outdated, especially because now the AIR is also used by other colleges to admit students. Although, qualitatively, not much has changed for the top IITs.

          On the basis of a Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), a merit list of about 12,000 people would be compiled. This was a very transparent standardized test. The particular IIT and the stream of specialization is decided solely on the basis of this AIR.

          Do you see general category and OBC continuing to converge in academic performance?

          The difference in AIRs between general category and OBC is not that significant in most fields. For example, typical AIRs for civil or chemical engineering for general category at IIT Bombay would be around 1000 while that for OBC would be about 3000. The difference in the intelligence of these students is not that significant since one would have scored 300 in the standardized test while the other would have scored 270 out of 500. Compare that to CSE or EE where you’re comparing an AIR of 100 with an AIR of about 1000. The difference in their JEE score would be 400 vs 300. That’s huge! And we see that in the convergence rates as well. In most fields you do see a homogenization among general category and OBC students once they enter IIT but not so much in CSE or EE. Also, a good chunk of the best jobs are on offer for CSE and EE students so the caste difference is really magnified there compared to the job offers for the average general category and the average OBC students, which doesn’t really exist.

          Do you think OBC should to dissolved and incorporated into the general category?

          This is largely a political question. What will follow will be a significant reduction in the number of OBC students at IIT, which would be politically and socially undesirable.

          Green Veggies, do you see the academic gap between SCs and non SCs continuing to shrink? What can be done to speed this academic gap narrowing?

          In some parts, yes. There are a lot of genuine people who are taking advantage of the quotas for SCs and STs. Many first generation college going students come from poor families who after landing at IIT and have the same resources as everyone else and perform rather well. However, a substantial number of students come from families that have taken the benefit of these quotas for second or third generation and these students didn’t rally lack resources while preparing for JEE. They were just not good enough despite having good education. These students usually don’t perform better once they land at IIT and I don’t think anything can be done by IITs to improve their performance. A law preventing second or third generation SC/ST students accessing reservation would be the most effective in narrowing this gap.

  7. The biggest axis of discrimination at IITs is that of the hostel. There’s fierce tribalism and annual cultural/technical/sports events are passionately contested.

    Caste is barely an issue. Class might be as folks who speak better English usually tend to congregate in certain hobby groups related to English lit, quizzing etc.

    I would say that this article gets it completely backwards. IITians spend 4 years living intimately with folks from very different social backgrounds. This makes them more empathetic compared to folks who go to private universities like BITS or non-residential ones like DU.

    I have talked to many woke Delhi University people who are all for caste justice and whatnot but barely know a single Dalit person. Fucktards.

    1. The biggest axis of discrimination at IITs is that of the hostel. There’s fierce tribalism and annual cultural/technical/sports events are passionately contested.

      Not just events. Our elections were as fiercely (and sometimes riotously) contested as any in the rowdiest parts of India.

    2. “‘The biggest axis of discrimination at IITs is that of the hostel. “

      it is not really an axis of discrimination. more like a healthy hostel camaraderie (assabiyya if you will).

      speaking of IITB, the most visible schism among student population was between UGs (undergrads) and PGs (postgrads). for whatever reasons UGs considered themselves a notch above the PGs. i guess the underlying assumption was that most PGs must have tried JEE at some point and failed, and that’s why they ended up as PGs instead of UGs.

      i noticed zero groupism based on caste or language or religion. friendships generally transcended these categories. though there was some polarization between metro/english-medium and provincial/vernacular students. but it wasn’t too pronounced to be of much concern.

      and that was all in 90s. i have no idea how IITs have evolved since then.

  8. > So they are manufacturing this, and that really angers me, because I dislike lying and propaganda.

    Who is “they”? A lot of this is done by socially retarded Indians themselves.

  9. Related to this topic, Trevor Phillips critics the woke European intelligentsia starting 35:50 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ4xKdKdi90 Shades of Malcolm X’s take down of what he called the “white liberal.” Watch three minutes:
    —“the one thing that white liberals most hate is a black man who doesn’t owe them a favor and who they cannot patronise
    —it is really important that we stay different and that we stay at the bottom of the pile
    —Because If we don’t, two things are true:
    ——We don’t need them to look after us
    ——We might actually take their jobs
    ——Some minority groups, particularly Indians and Chinese, are earning . . . . more per hour than white Brits
    ——I bet you, I bet you there is a sneaking anxiety about all these clever Indian Doctors and accountants somehow moving up the ladder
    —We see it in technicolor inside the USA
    ——They really hate the Asian Americans, really hate the Asian Americans”

    I love Trevor Phillips. It would be great for BP to interview him.

    The European Intelligentsia is targetting and trying to harm the SC the same way they are attacking blacks around the world.

  10. The first gen Indian-Americans tech or non tech are busy building wealth via stem related fields. Their children, in their quest to be good Americans are more woke than white or black Americans. The parents never saw it coming. Look at Biden’s administration’s desi staff. Most are 2nd gen who are generally not from STEM fields. Now, parents just support their kids. Also, I see that there seems to be a push by liberal arts lobby to actually denigrate the STEM fields in the recent few months which is bizarre. From my circle, I see that Desi parents are supporting their kids financially well into their 30’s.

    For any Desi kid who is not SJW, it is not an easy time to be on campus right now. The 2nd generation has no understanding or knowledge of different castes or Jati norms as practiced in India. Also the kids who come to US colleges for undergrad from India tend to be from elite background and re more likely to be the secular kinds. The exception might be an odd University like Rutgers where the Hindu students are pushing against Audrey T or a couple in Florida or Texas.

  11. >So they are manufacturing this, and that really angers me, because I dislike lying and propaganda.
    You dislike it when it suits you or goes against your grift razib.

  12. Can I see the data that consulting firms don’t widely share?

    How are Indian immigrants pre 2000 like my parents different? (My opinion: back in 70s/80s, they tried to assimilate more. I remember my parents insisting on speaking English and wearing “American” clothes. They were critical of other Indians who didn’t try to assimilate or lived in buildings that were mostly Indian. They purposely chose to live in neighborhoods where we would meet different ethnicities. But my parents were bit independent minded/individualistic. I think this is why I don’t mesh with the American desi crowd well. I’m not desi enough for them. I’m always told “You’re different”

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