SB 403, the bill outlawing caste discrimination in California is on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk. The California legislature In its infinite wisdom voted to pass this bill on September 6.
The California state legislature has become the first in the United States to pass a bill banning discrimination based on caste, a centuries-old system of social stratification with roots in South Asia.
On Tuesday, the State Senate passed SB 403 by a margin of 31-5, adding caste as a form of ancestry protected under state civil rights law, as well as education and housing codes.
This was done under the radar and like much of what passes the legislature, along party lines. Legacy and conservative media were almost singularly focused on SB 14, the bill that makes child sex trafficking a serious felony, and AB 957, which would have required that judges overseeing custody disputes ensured that the parents affirmed their child’s gender identity. In surprising political twists, Newsom, a progressive with a known hatred for felony laws and criminal justice, actually championed and signed SB 14 into law. Newsom is also a rabid ally for the LGBTQ+ agenda, but he vetoed AB 957 a bill that would have polished his credentials with the activists seeking to sacrifice the parent-child relationship on the altar of the transgender agenda.
The Hindu community is the main target of this bill. On September 9, this community, along with 30 other organizations, gathered in front of the state capitol to protest SB 403’s passage and demand Newsom veto the bill.
Newsom has until October 14 to sign or veto the remaining laws the legislature has passed this term. Not trusting the capricious nature of the governor, the SB 403 opposition lobbied two of the senators who voted against the bill’s passage: Brian Jones (R-San Diego) and Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield).
We’ve received countless calls from constituents & Californians across the state in opposition to #SB403. It’s my job to represent their concerns.@ShannonGroveCA & I are calling on Gov Newsom to do the right thing and veto this discriminatory, divisive, and unnecessary bill. pic.twitter.com/LZN6kr3tSo
— Brian W. Jones (@SenBrianJones) October 3, 2023
In their press release, Jones and Grove stated,
“We don’t have a caste system in America or California, so why would we reference it in law, especially if caste and ancestry discrimination are already illegal? We are calling on Governor Newsom to do the right thing and veto this discriminatory, divisive, and unnecessary bill.”
SB 403 has divided the South Asian community and the Legislature with many Hindu organizations strongly opposed to the bill. Notably, no concrete evidence or data has been provided to show extensive caste discrimination in California. The oft-quoted survey by Equality Labs has been deemed unscientific and the only legal case of caste discrimination in California was dismissed by the Santa Clara Superior County Court.
“SB 403 will encourage the discrimination and profiling of our South East Asian community, especially those who embrace the Hindu religion,” said Senator Grove. “The bill’s definition of “perceived position” in a system of social stratification based on inherited attributes is so vague that it will subject businesses to baseless charges of discrimination, making them subject to predatory PAGA lawsuits. Workers can claim discrimination based on their hair color, ancestry, or marital status under this broad definition.”
Will he veto it? As most of us well know, Newsom is running for president. So, if signing this bill into law will burnish his national possibilities, expect him to do it. In a RedState exclusive, we exposed the deep flaws in SB 403, the activist fervor behind its passage, and how the genesis of the bill started with a 2020 lawsuit against Cisco Corporation filed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (now the California Civil Rights Department—CRD).
The 2020 lawsuit against Cisco Corporation was CRD-inspired and is essentially the genesis for SB 403. Wahib referenced this lawsuit as a prime example that issues involving caste are a pressing problem in her senate district and throughout California.
CRD (as DFEH) pursued the suit against two engineers, Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, who allegedly discriminated against an employee on the basis of caste. CRD also sued Cisco Corporation. The case against the engineers was dismissed in April, but the suit against Cisco Corporation continues. The crowdsourced site “Castegate” documents the corruption and excess of the CRD in bringing this lawsuit and how the lawsuit has been used fraudulently to bring disunity and division into the Indian community.
The now dismissed case has served as a means to demean Indian Americans in media narratives for 3+ years, in introducing caste-based policy in academic institutions like Harvard, Cal State, Univ. of Minnesota, and Corporate, and as policy in Seattle Caste Bill and SB 403 in California. Activists present allegations as facts to malign an entire community of Hindu Americans as casteist, discriminatory, and a vile and violent ethnic group that threatens “Dalits”.
“California for Justice,” a group of current and former Cisco employees, wrote an open letter to the Director of the CRD demanding an apology for the lawsuit against Iyer and Kompella and the alleged accusations against other South Asian employees caught up in the lawsuit’s maelstrom. Both lawsuits have damaged the reputation and stability of Cisco’s workplace community, and only served to malign the good people of South Asian and Hindu descent who happily work there and did not understand or support the basis for the lawsuit.
Back in June, I sat down with Savi and H (not their real names), a current and a former Cisco employee of Asian descent. They both expressed deep disappointment and anger with the CRD for their dishonest portrayal of the company and people for whom they had deep respect.
Savi has been with Cisco for almost five years and said she has,
[N]ever come across any situation or any discrimination that I can attribute to the word, “caste.” I particularly, coming from a South Asian origin, I have not been able to find a meaning or definition to that word. Because there are indigenous words that describe a certain system or a way of living that has been translated into something extremely sinister by, you know, I want to say, colonial people. This is a colonial slur and most people do not understand the meaning of this word. We would like to keep any occurrences of any kind of discrimination from outside of the United States over there. We are only concerned with the CRD and how it has been able to bully one of the brightest companies in the Silicon Valley. Our grouse is only with CRD, especially, I was completely taken aback a few months ago when the two defendants, the case was dismissed against them.
Savi said that she does not fully understand the politics in California, but her “eyebrows raise” when she hears about activism surrounding caste and bills like SB 403.
H has lived and worked in Silicon Valley for 27 years, 13 of those years with Cisco.
My kids were born here, they went to high school here and got into college here. I have not seen or heard of this issue until these bills and the Cisco case about three years ago. I worked for Cisco for 13 years. Very happy 13 years. Excellent company, excellent culture. I really valued my time there. I believe Cisco stood for, you know, one of the most diverse, as well as inclusive environment that they have created. Working with South Asians, working with people of different faith, different colors, different races, different backgrounds. No one seemed to care about those things, it was all about enjoying work together with your colleagues. And we had some very good times. So, when you hear these kind of things it’s like, “What? Really?” Why haven’t I seen it in the 27 years that I’ve lived here?
The fact that CRD is still fueling this fire with ongoing litigation with Cisco, and the activists championing the passage of SB 403 into law, reflect a desire to divide and marginalize a particular group of people who simply came to America to escape “colonial” nonsense and pursue the American Dream.
The scale of this injustice is just beginning to dawn upon an unsuspecting innocent American Hindu Diaspora. #SB403 is a sculpted hate missile designed to be an existential threat for Hindus everywhere.
@GavinNewsom @castefiles @casteconf @CoHNAOfficial https://t.co/QIknvclnhe
— Pt Satish K Sharma MBCS FRSA (@thebritishhindu) October 4, 2023
Dr. Rupali Chadha, a Southeast Asian whose family immigrated to the United States from Canada, points out the sharp contrast between true discrimination versus manufactured discrimination. Dr. Chadha also calls out the cowardly California politicians and the California GOP for their failure to support the Southeast Asian community in their fight against SB 403.
I grew up in a very racist and divided Canada. If you weren’t white, good luck. My parents saw what was happening to their kids when our school teachers pulled our hair, told us to go back to our country, and wash our faces as they were dirty and brown. So we came (legally) to…
— Rupali Chadha, M.D.🩺 (@RupaliChadhaMD) October 4, 2023
I grew up in a very racist and divided Canada. If you weren’t white, good luck. My parents saw what was happening to their kids when our school teachers pulled our hair, told us to go back to our country, and wash our faces as they were dirty and brown. So we came (legally) to the great US of A. And I believe in this country and believed in the @GOP, until the party I walked and knocked doors for, made phone calls for, gave money to, and voted for ignored bigotry against Hindus to by allowing Dems to give birth to and pass #SB403 … only @SenBrianJones stood up and voted NO … every other Republican in the CA state legislature ABSTAINED.
@CAGOP and @millanpatterson allowed this…. It wasn’t because they were uninformed. I called and called and posted and tweeted and tried to inform anyone and everyone who would listen. It’s not because they were confused by stupidity that somehow this bill was truly anti-discriminatory when it’s actually discriminatory towards Hindu Americans. It’s because they listened to people who want to eradicate the Hindu faith and decided they didn’t want to get involved. Who cares if a few Hindus are discriminated against? We are not the religion of this party anyway, right? Well, we are not a big voting block, but we ARE a big donor block. We will never forget this.
OC elections @OCGOP @fredOCGOP are going to feel this the hardest. Now you may well lose Orange County. Maybe it’s not too late to stand up. Stand-up courageously the way @ScottBaughCA47 and @klbrucelane have and ARE. Call Newsom. REPENT. Ask him not to sign this bill.
If Newsom signs SB 403 into law, it will only serve to embed discrimination of one group of Asians over another with the power of the law to enforce it. Advocacy groups like Caste Files are planning legal action if that occurs.
We have launched a legal fight in Seattle and will continue to fight #SB403 – because legislators have been compromised into submitting to a YES vote — they have walked with open eyes into this well laid and known trap of illogical wokeism @CAgovernor know that fake lawsuits… https://t.co/YJEUwQY4Ud
— castefiles (@castefiles) October 5, 2023
On Monday, Newsom promoted and affirmed Laphonza Butler, the Black, LGBTQ non-California resident as his appointment to fill the late Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat. In his responses to the press, Newsom waxed eloquent about how affirming the Black community and appointing them to prominent positions in government is, “a point of deep pride for me. My advocacy, my passion, in this space going back decades.” Does this passion and advocacy extend to California’s diverse South Asian community? Newsom’s choice to sign or veto will definitely tell the tale.
And the clock is ticking…