Casteism as I saw it: Dalit healthcare professionals from the US speak out

Nov 23, 2020, 12:30 PM
“This incident happened just ten days ago. I want to bring this up as I have talked about a similar incident 14 years ago. The situation is the same now. I always, always avoid Indians at the workplace, Indians in a restaurant, Indians in any place I have to have a conversation with them because the conversation always goes in the wrong direction. So when I had to meet with an Indian physician in the middle of the pandemic, I had no choice. This Indian physician as soon as he entered, he looked at my chart and the first question he asked was, ‘Your name throws me off. Reina doesn’t really come from Hindu name. Your last name is kind of different, I am confused are you Indian?” I said, “Yes, I am very much Indian." I already knew where this was going. He did not focus on my health but the first thing he is so stuck at is my name and then he asked, “Where does this name come from?" I said this is part of India. And the next question was which part of India? Where does it belong to? I knew which direction this was going, because this wasn’t the first time this was happening.”

The story mentioned above is Reina’s, a guest speaker from today’s episode of Caste in the USA. She has worked for several years as a public health professional in the US. Through her experiences, Reina highlights the bias in the public health field with relationship to caste, given her diverse experience working with Indians versus non-Indians. While the former had her watch an undeserving upper-caste colleague be protected and promoted by a manager of the same community, working with non-Indians got her a successful career instead.

Joining Reina to speak further about casteism within healthcare in the USA is Dr Pradeep.  Both of them, in conversation with host Thenmozhi Soundararajan, reiterate several common narratives - from ignorance and caste pride fuelling dominant caste supremacy in colleagues within healthcare to being able to thrive only in non-Indian workplaces.