Stop trying to make ‘caste happen’

Google’s plan to talk about caste bias led to ‘division and rancor’:

In April, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the founder and executive director of Equality Labs — a nonprofit that advocates for Dalits, or members of the lowest-ranked caste — was scheduled to give a talk to Google News employees for Dalit History Month. But Google employees began spreading disinformation, calling her “Hindu-phobic” and “anti-Hindu” in emails to the company’s leaders, documents posted on Google’s intranet and mailing lists with thousands of employees, according to copies of the documents as well as interviews with Soundararajan and current Google employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about retaliation.

Soundararajan appealed directly to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who comes from an upper-caste family in India, to allow her presentation to go forward. But the talk was canceled, leading some employees to conclude that Google was willfully ignoring caste bias. Tanuja Gupta, a senior manager at Google News who invited Soundararajan to speak, resigned over the incident, according to a copy of her goodbye email posted internally Wednesday and viewed by The Washington Post.

A few points

– This is a big deal in the US right now because a few clueless progressive foundations gave money to Equality Labs. I say clueless because these foundations and granting institutions have zero ability to evaluate the plausibility of systemic caste bias in the US. They probably thought it sounded like a bad thing they should work against, so they funded Equality Labs. Once Equality Labs got its money, it was going to find systemic caste bias, because that’s its raison d’etre.

– The journalists who are reporting that “rising Hindu nationalist movement that has spread from India through the diaspora has arrived inside Google, according to employees” are clueless, and driven along by self-serving sources or their own biases. This particular reporter, Nitasha Tiku is an Ivy League-educated Indian American who has worked in online media (mostly tech journalism) for over a decade. She, like other Indian American reporters, has the right appearance and familial origins to cover a story like “caste in America’s Indian immigrant communities” in the eyes of her editors. But most of these people are not really culturally fluent enough to understand any of the subtleties or nuances of Indian caste, so they fall back on uncritically relaying their source’s talking points, or platitudes and cliches. These people are American, not Indian.

– Obviously, caste and jati are huge issues in the Indian subcontinent, and they are socially relevant institutions that have an impact on your life course. But that is not the case in the US. Indian Americans do come from caste backgrounds, though only 1% come from Dalit family backgrounds (again, it’s weird saying you are a “Dalit American” so almost no Amerians know what a Dalit is). But many Indian Americans raised in the US are very vague about their caste (with exceptions, if you are an Iyer or Mukherjee you pretty much know), and many of them grew up in predominantly non-Indian social environments. The kinship/jati networks that smooth the social functioning of Indian society doesn’t exist in the US. There are partial exceptions with Gujuratis who run family businesses, but these are a minority, and many of the children of successful Gujurati businesspeople in the US still go into professions where their world is mostly not Indian. What is really going with “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” oriented interrogation of caste in the US is that they want to transpose the black-white model of oppressed and oppressors on a different group so as to organize a “progressive stack rank” of virtue/privilege.

– Though Indian Americans of the 1.5 and 2nd generation are prominent culturally and politically, the vast majority of Indian Americans in the US are immigrants, born and raised in India. Most actually arrived after the year 2000! People like Sundar Pichai or Parag Agrawal are socioculturally quite distinct from Neera Tanden or Kal Pe. Indian American Brahmins and Bainyas who barely have any understanding what this caste identity is may be willing to take on the role of “oppressors” so as to obtain performative self-flaggelation points, but it seems that immigrants, who often struggled to gain a foothold in the American economy and society, are not as eager to engage in this behavior. Especially when they are more aware of the reality of caste and jati in the subcontinent.

– There are nepotistic networks among Indians in tech. I’ve heard multiple people (Indian immigrants) talk about the “Telugu mafia.” But these are not the same as what you would see in India as explicitly related to jati. There are networks connected to schools that everyone went to, or a unicorn that a bunch of early employees cashed out of, etc. It’s the typical thing you see in business in general, where relationships go a long way. But there’s no systemic exclusion of Dalits or lower class people because there are hardly any Dalits in the US, and Indian Amerians are strongly selected for skills, education and higher socioeconomic status in the immigration system. I dislike pointing to prejudice to explain things, but the same sort of dynamics you see in the “Paypal Mafia” when it happens with Indian immigrants seems to be depicted as caste-clannishness by outsiders.

– I am not optimistic that DEI will not include caste in its categories of oppression and marginalization. In 5 years I think it is quite likely that a young white women in HR will be evaluating the caste-jati status of brown-skinned applicants to companies to make sure that the subcontiental employee pool is “diverse.”

46 thoughts on “Stop trying to make ‘caste happen’”

  1. Unfortunate that excuses are being advanced, when there is a carry over of prejudices of the oppressive Indian caste system hierarchy into the US. The second largest illegal immigrant population in the US is Indian. The US because of its obsession with China has overlooked this population and its inner societal dynamics as it has the fascist tendencies in in the politics and civil society of India.

    1. Just one more cudgel against all Indians and throw them into the meatgrinder and whitewash the Americans’ historical and current support to Pakistan through several illiberal transgressions, and needless to say, gleeful Pakis will bank on the blind eye the liberals are all too willing to turn, what else is new?

  2. …and in 10 years, perhaps the USCB conducts a jati census of Indian Americans!

    Americans store their guilt in a color matrix….so it will be fun to watch. That “young white woman in HR” will be in epiphany-land every day – having to turn down dark brown Telugu Brahmins in favour of Steppes shifted Punjabi Dalits.

  3. private organizations have already done jati census. civis analytics did one for the democrats, and i have seen the data. that’s where my assertions are coming from. i know the % of jatis their incomes and their educations

        1. Is there one for Republicans? Why would the DNC collect such data? Jati has no relevancy in the US. What purpose does that serve? And how many Jatis are we talking about? There are literally hundreds if not thousands of them. Plus they can differ depending on what Indian state they came from. I’m curious if they collected any data on Marathi castes. We tend to be ignored. Even if they did, it seems to me Democrats are too obsessed with diversity and division than what unites us as Americans.

  4. My solution is for them to show they support ICM and do ICM. They have to show that they do not carry prejudices from motherland. Show this background of theirs, come together, organize, lead. These people chose individual excellence and said F.U. to larger society. Did not create Asabiya , so one small poke and they are falling on their asses. Never built a robust alliance with others, where are your friends?. do they exist?. where are the democratic leaders , are they coming to your defense?.
    Ofcourse, they can also start learning mandarin and go to china. Competition often can bring rationality. US gets a lot of talent, if they cannot appreciate this talent, no need for them to be there in first place. Or go to some other place like france perhaps?. In anycase, there is no hope in this world for cowards , whose answer to every problem is to run away.
    Many ceo’s but cant buy good press, they are just managerial class at best, cannot really lead when it comes down to this. predators prey cowards, like shark scents wounded animals. They can smell it. They will keep coming after you until you hurt them and their backers and make deal behind them to their masters to cut these grifters off.

    1. most indian americans (or indians living in America) are immigrants. most of their children will marry outside of caste. 40% will marry non-indians. this is just what the data so far is. perhaps in the future that will change, but it can’t be anything like India.

      basically caste cohesion/unity can’t operate in a world where more than half the children in a generation marry out.

      1. Depends on immigration as you say. In which case, why not stand out on it, own it, let everyone know that Indian americans are like rest of the americans, a melting pot. And do it openly, do it in an organized way. MAKE IT BE KNOWN to everyone there is. win support, build alliances.
        Why is this not known to everyone. Why does sundar pichai not say it, why do these people not say it?. Maybe they should hire you.

  5. because the progressive elite vision is that it’s better to be marginalized and oppressed. what indian americans are and what they are becoming is a challenge to the progressive vision. pichai is a winner, he aligns always with the authorities, the elite, and the powers that be. he would never challenge the lies they promote because it would be the end of his status.

    1. I am sure that Pichai gets multiple perspectives. Bottom line is that he has to look out for the interests of Google. He has no interest in dragging Google into a minefield of culture wars and complex social history of India.

  6. The whole issue to me seem (mostly) South Indians fight among themselves. Since they have no (or very small) part to play in the whole ‘Fight against Hindutva/Modi’ thing going in the states, S-Indians have just gone ahead and invented their own ‘conflict’.

    1. @Saurav, what you said reminds me of what I saw on twitter by some folks – basically non-brahmin groups from TN (subscribing to the dravidian ideology) not letting TamBrahms be in peace even after they have left India.

      1. Yeah it mostly led and participated by S-Indians. Not to say, as Razib mentioned, that N-Indians are not participating. But N-Indians are mostly side shows.

        The N-Indians which are participating are mostly Punjabis. Who mostly dont partake in the whole Hindutva/Modi fight. They have their whole Sikh Jat vs non Jat thing going on. Which is something happening in Punjab itself, and not really a UC vs dalit issue. Apart from that, from the testimony , there is one other Nepali dalit at the forefront. Outside of that there is hardly any N-Indian UCs vs dalit in the whole saga.

          1. Lol Gujaratis are N Indians when disparaging caste or insulting Hindutuva. But are non N Indians when making racialized attacks, especially on mercantile groups.

            But agree with Razib. I see every sort of Indian partake in the Woke Brigade. Funny that some will go to BLM protest and then talk shit about “ugly S Indians” in private, with a few even having a nice little stash of fair and lovely in their medicine cabinet. The whole thing is a circus.

  7. you guys are literally being dumb. it’s not just south indians, the woman who led the charge at google is a gupta. the gujus and punjabis get woke too. and it’s not just nonbrahmins, a lot of brahmins and upper caste ppl get woke and want to be performative like white ppl about their oppression.

    don’t say stupid shit, it annoys me

  8. Some thoughts:
    1) “socially relevant institutions that have an impact on your life course”
    ” most of these people are not really culturally fluent enough to ”
    UC Indians from A/B rung cities are not that good at it either. They may harbor resentment but I don’t think enough opportunities exist in India to meaningfully press caste advantage. But then this is the same as whites in the US who have for generations not had the ‘right’ opportunities but still get dumped on. SJWs never care about nuances like economic conditions so why even discuss that.
    2) ‘kinship/jati networks that smooth the social functioning of Indian society’ 10:1 on kinship:jati.
    3) ‘There are nepotistic networks’
    No there are not at least not at the level I work. People get paid anywhere from 2K to 5K for successful referrals. First generation H1B Indians in America try hard to make this extra money by referring their friends. There are too many good jobs in tech to be nepotistic. People really want to hire smarter people to make bigger bonuses and make stocks soar (at least at my level).

    H1B people are very scared of getting into ‘discrimination’ mess. Telugus overwhelmingly do all sorts of other frauds (consultancy hires where you get paid less but get H1B, marry fat American women, work illegally, …) in the US but I don’t buy the ‘Telugu mafia’.
    4) America keeps making it harder for Indians. Good for Republic of India, bad for US of A.

  9. Regarding nepotism.

    One of the reasons for these so-called mafias is because a lot of American tech and finance companies have offices in India. Sometimes the India offices are larger than the home ones.

    Entire teams sit in India and folks usually migrate over time on L1 visa.
    For example, from what I know, Microsoft has the Android version of their Teams products owned by the India office. So there’s a high chance that Indians will be highly overrepresented among any mobile app development team at the company.

    A friend of mine works at NY office of American Express. His entire team was composed of folks who had worked on the same project in the Gurgaon office earlier. So for the sake of diversity, the company brought in a Chinese woman.

    1. +1

      ###

      In some such cases the ‘discrimination’ bit is sort of true. Freshwork is infamously Tamil-only. Maybe its teams in the US will reflect this. But I think this is more to do with the trust they have built about the quality of colleges in their catchment area.

      ###

      1. In some such cases the ‘discrimination’ bit is sort of true. Freshwork is infamously Tamil-only. Maybe its teams in the US will reflect this. But I think this is more to do with the trust they have built about the quality of colleges in their catchment area.

        TN’s population is greater than that of Italy. If an IT company was founded in Italy and by Italians, would anyone be shocked if the company was still full of Italians once it expanded overseas, at least in senior management?

        I don’t deny that there may be nepotism among Indians abroad, but I have a sense that Indians get judged more harshly for it than others. I agree with your point that these patterns likely just reflect earlier socialisation.

        1. @principia

          That’s a great frame of reference. Modern Indians, inspite of traveling, do not understand relative scaling at all. This applies to me as well.

  10. How will anyone know what a person’s caste is? One can claim to be from any caste one wants. There exist very dark Brahmins and pretty fair Dalits. Things are nowhere as clear-cut as race.

    Unlike in India where you can get a SC/ST or OBC caste certificate from the local govt. authorities from your village (where your family has lived for centuries and you can’t easily falsify your caste) to prove that you indeed belong to them.

    PS: Thenmozhi Soundarajan herself probably is not a Dalit as she claims but from some Tamil OBC caste (the dominant caste in Tamil Nadu). Again there is no way to prove or disprove this assertion unless she brings up her grandparents caste certificates.

  11. But caste is more than just dalit vs “savarna” – how many OBCs are there, how do Jats treat Khatris, those are dynamics we have heard little about since caste in western media is often flattened to high vs low. It might be interesting to get some more information there.

  12. Thenmozhi Soundararajan has a doctor for a father, and she went to UC Berkeley. Her surname is also used by some Brahmins as well

  13. The dehumanization of Hindus is frightening. Putting aside the “caste” chatter, the reason Google dis-invited her, was due to her very public and repeated track record of wanting to destroy Hinduism. Yet everyone glosses over that fact. Its shocking that someone with this level of hate gets glowing write-ups in mainstream media and workplaces. We are seeing scary parallels with the dehumanizing of Hinduism and Hindu pain, similar to the centuries of propaganda against European Jews. When I read the screed they wrote about Holi, in their now deleted article, I see shades of the “blood libel” accusations, that were thrown at the Jewish community.
    An organization that accuses millions of people of being rapists or criminal due to their faith, should have no space in civil discourse.

    1. When you have 18% of world population but top tier life goal is a 1 BHK in Sunnyvale+ H1B and eventual Townhome in Lawrence + GC then shit happens.

      When your ancestors lose every single important battle. Most your people don’t even want to be called ‘normal’ Indians (think Bangladeshis, Rajputs, Sikhs, Brahmins…) shit happens.

      When you pursue socialism for 50 years and celebrate charkha-khadi-PSU-cooperatives then shit happens.

      If you want respect enforce it. Begging and haggling only goes so far.

      1. “but top tier life goal is a 1 BHK in Sunnyvale+ H1B and eventual Townhome in Lawrence + GC then shit happens”

        This is not a bad life goal. Working hard at your job, raising your family and building generational wealth is a core goal of life.

        Other things are good as add-ons. But this core goal should not be screwed up.

        Where Hindus are going wrong is raising our sons and daughters to resist the woke ideology. A large section of our society is already woke and wokeness is a marker of belonging to upper class so many middle class aspirants also start tending towards it.

        Hindu parents can chose to give their offspring a stronger grounding in Hinduism, making them learn Sanskrit, read Hindu texts, temple visits etc for them to acquire an ownership about Hinduism. Even this may prove insufficient.

        What we really need is a protestant type reformation of Hinduism which can bring an organized religion aspect to it. Something like the Gujaratis have done with Swaminarayana Sampradaya. That would bind the Hindus from different castes and regions together and should resist their slide to wokeness. Such a Hindu church can possibly come up in the United States rather than India.

        1. Completely agree. BAPs has done wonders at fighting wokeness. Many of the youth I know are good examples of remaining conservative and grounded because of more of the organized Hinduism you bring up. Arya Samaj can do it too. ISKON as well.

        2. There will always be heretics, woke is cool. You can raise 99 doctors but then at least one will figure the ‘activist’ way to fame and meaning.

          ###

          These ladies are Indian-American’s (and NRI) problem. I just listed the things that have brought Indians to where they are, groveling infront of Goras. Most such folks will succeed in raising ‘American’ brown children. Good for them but know caste is a new hoop in the American circus routine.

          ###

          There will always be Rajas of Amber looking out for what you call ‘core goal’ in life. Has it’s own costs.

          Hopefully, we become strong enough on our own to not dance to the tunes other people play.

          ###

  14. The set of clueless foundations funding equality labs is much larger. EL does a great job of being the boggart – it presents itself as whatever the foundation fears the most. So it is concurrently championing digital security, anti-doxxing tips for the oppressed, equality through the arts, champion of black rights, anti islamophobic … and this is just the documented list.

    Their end game is to go where the money is – be the exclusive provider of caste education for corporate hr departments as part of their dei budgets.

    Actual evidence of caste based discrimination is entirely optional.

  15. Always ask Who/Whom? My galaxy brain take on this particular google kerfuffle is that Susan Wojnicki is using caste angle to turf out Pichai.

  16. https://twitter.com/Raven_krishna/status/1534567108457050112
    “WSJ Silicon Valley SM companies beat journalist. More into how Facebook is destroying democracy and helping BJP stories. His coming out for that hack, confirms she is a conduit for his articles. These journalists are also into Indian politics as their articles see high engagement


    Timnit Gebru
    @timnitGebru
    When we started Black in AI, in the beginning, we had many requests to join from people in India. I was confused by this at the time but thought it had something to do with casteism.”
    It is connected to the book “caste” and apparently, the many manifestations of racism.
    Start learning mandarin. I see the alliances on the left building as they are full time activists.

    Only power worth having is power to hurt economically, politically and now it seems, even at reputational level.

  17. All of this is the consequence of the belief that all inequality is a consequence of systemic bias. Also, because, post software eating up hardware, the distribution of money between the top and bottom has diverged much more.

  18. https://carnegieendowment.org/2021/06/09/social-realities-of-indian-americans-results-from-2020-indian-american-attitudes-survey-pub-84667#:~:text=Survey%20Overview,group%20in%20the%20United%20States.&text=According%20to%20data%20from%20the,residing%20in%20the%20United%20States.

    83%UCs ~16%OBCs and only ~1% ScSts in US
    wiki-“Nearly 1 in 10 people of Indian origin in the US is a Patel”
    I think the UCs of South indians are Mostly of V4
    And North Indians are from agro-trading groups.
    -Indians are still one of the most endogamous group in US.
    -Even non indians discriminate on caste basis and it is the biggest reason of discrimination by Indians towards Indians.

  19. Pretty good take on the situation. There absolutely have been cases of caste discrimination in the US, like at Cisco, but there’s been basically no studies showing there’s anything systematic going on

    White people though still take this as an opportunity to discriminate against desis

  20. That Hinduphobic bitch Audrey Truske is also weighing in on Pichai being TamBram. This is extortion. Shitting on hard work and sacrifice of Indian Americans.

    Operating at Pichai or Parag’s level is no joke. These guys are beasts who will chew mere mortals for breakfast. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to even make through HR screening of Google L8 or above.

    1. Parag still comes across as a desi baniya TBH. He still hasn’t “Americanized” enough, going by his accent in the leaked Twitter calls.

    2. I wish they chew up Themozhi and Truschke if they are indeed so powerful.

      But they won’t. And they can’t.

      Sundar, Parag and Satya are powerful in their own circumscribed domains (running a profitable tech giant) but are powerless outside of it. They aren’t like the Jewish hedge fund owners or founder-CEOs who have influence and power in the media or politics and who cannot be screwed around with. Actually, I have a strong suspicion that Sundar and Parag while very capable cannot really take any bold decisions where they might face resistance from their boards. These guys are NOT Steve Jobs or Elon Musks. Satya is a little better but Microsoft was in dire straits when he came around which allowed him to be adventurous.

      We Hindus are gonna have to shut up and bear it. And pray that this storm blows over with not much tangible losses for us other than insults and insinuations hurdled at us by the media (more often than not by our very own Hindu Indians who seem to have found a sure shot way to fame and career advancement by dumping on fellow Hindus simply trying to eke out an existence in the USA.)

      Resisting against gratuitous insults to our festivals like Holi and Diwali, or against fact-free allegations of caste-discrimination gets us labeled as Hindu fascists, Hindu Right Wing, Hindutva-lobby etc. Even Indian newsmedia reports these insults as academic enquiry and allegations as facts.

      We are in a tough spot. We have too many internal fault-lines; we are socially and religiously unorganized and also too busy with our careers and taking care of our families. There is no empathy for us in the media. I don’t see a way out here.

      Maybe the work we are putting in now will allow the next generation (a lot of whom are American citizens) to put up more resistance.

      PS: Actually I am extremely surprised that Thenmozhi was banned from Google in the first place. Being insanely woke is the safest option for corporations and Google seeing through this grifter’s charade and not giving in is commendable.

      PPS: However, it seems to have worked out for Thenmozhi. She has got a lot more “encachable” publicity out of being banned than she would have if Google had allowed her talk. She also is successfully using her getting banned as “evidence” of caste discrimination by upper caste Hindus.

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