- February 16, 2023
- 5:30 pm
- Online (PST)
Important Event Information
- This event was streamed live online with an interactive Q&A.
- This event was recorded and is on our YouTube channel.
- Portions of the audio will be released on our podcast.
Caste is one of the oldest systems of exclusion in the world. It negatively impacts 1.9 billion people worldwide, crippling their quality of life. With its roots in India, the caste system ranks people into five castes that are based on spiritual purity and their deeds in past lives. For anyone born into a culture where caste is rampant, it determines who and where they worship, choices and advancement in education and career, even personal relationships—in essence their entire lives. Brahmins, who created this system in Hindu scripture, are at the top of the caste system and have benefited from centuries of privilege, access, and power because of it. Dalits, who sit at the bottom of this hierarchy, are branded “untouchable” and sentenced to a violent system of caste apartheid with separate neighborhoods, places of worship, and schools.
While caste-based discrimination in the United States is not as widespread and overt as it is in India, it exists in the U.S. as well. It is important to recognize and understand its relationship to other systems of oppression in the U.S. and beyond in order to do movement work and heal.
Dalit American activist and author Thenmozhi Soundararajan, has been working to end caste oppression around the world for decades. In her work, she endeavors to help Dalit individuals and families heal through international solidarity with other oppressed people, working together to dismantle caste apartheid. Thenmozhi’s work is a call to action to end caste apartheid, grounded in Dalit feminist abolition and engaged Buddhism.
Join Thenmozhi Soundararajan and author, meditation teacher, and law professor Rhonda Magee for a powerful conversation on the ongoing trauma of the caste system and Dalit people’s fight against oppression. Sharing from Thenmozhi's latest book, The Trauma of Caste, in which she examines caste from her feminist, abolitionist, and Dalit Buddhist perspective; tying Dalit oppression and the fight against that oppression to the ongoing liberation movements among Black, Indigenous, Latinx, femme, and Queer communities. Throughout, Thenmozhi lays bare the grief, trauma, rage, and stolen futures enacted by Brahminical social structures on the oppressed caste and invites us all to examine our own relationship to caste and marginalization, so we can step into our power as healing activists and changemakers in the fight to end oppression.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan (the Dalit Diva) is a Dalit American artist, community organizer, technologist, and theorist. She is a frequent contributor on issues related to South Asia, caste, gender and racial equity, as well as interfaith issues and peace building. She has been featured on NBC, ABC, BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera, and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Slate, and the Guardian.
Currently, she is the cofounder and executive director of Equality Labs, one of the largest Dalit civil rights organizations working to empower caste-oppressed people in the U.S. and globally. Through her work at Equality Labs, Thenmozhi has mobilized South Asian Americans towards dismantling eons-long systems of oppression, with the goal of ending caste apartheid, gender-based violence, white supremacy and religious intolerance. Thenmozhi previously cofounded Third World Majority, an international media training organization and collective.
Thenmozhi’s intersectional, cross-pollinating work—research, education, art, activism and digital security—helps to create a more generous, global, expansive and inclusive definition of South Asian identity, along with safe spaces from which to honor the stories of these communities. Her work has been recognized by the U.S. Congress, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Producers Guild of America Diversity Program, the Sorbonne, Source magazine, Utne Reader, the National Center for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
She was an inaugural fellow of the Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship, the Unicorn Fund, the Atlantic Foundation for Racial Equity, and is a current fellow at the Stanford Center for South Asian Studies.
Learn more about Thenmozhi’s groundbreaking activism on social media: @dalitdiva and @equalitylabs and on Thenmozhi’s website.
Rhonda V. Magee is a professor of law at the University of San Francisco. Also trained in sociology and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), she is a highly practiced facilitator of trauma-sensitive, restorative MBSR interventions for lawyers and law students, and for minimizing the effects of social-identity-based bias. Magee has been a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society and a visiting professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.
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