California Senate Panel Passes Bill To End Racial Discrimination

New Delhi: The California Senate Judiciary Committee has voted unanimously to move an anti-racist discrimination bill to the Senate. This is the first time that a US state legislature would consider legislation on race.

The move has drawn fire from politically active sections of the Indian-origin community in the US. “Today, I proudly stand in solidarity with members of my racially-oppressed community, organizers of the racial equality movement, and allies to say that racially-oppressed Californians are now one step closer to receiving the protections they deserve are and deserve to be,” said Thenmozhi Soundararajan of Equity Labs, which was the force behind the anti-caste discrimination campaign in the US.

He said that this bill is the result of 15 years of struggle of the caste-oppressed people.

But it is facing strong opposition from Indian-American business and temple organizations. Vipul Patel, head of the Asian American Shop Owners Association, said, “This bill is misguided and will promote prejudice against all Indian-American businesses, including store owners, who are the backbone of California’s economy in these challenging economic times.” “We fear that this bill, if passed, will lead to frivolous litigation against small businesses, driving many of them out of the market,” he said. Hindu Temple Executives Conference, Hindu Business Network and Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective also criticized the bill.

If passed, the bill could make race bias illegal in California by adding it as a protected category to the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Hindu Temple Executives Conference (HMEC) convenor Tejal Shah said the organizations and individuals behind the bill have clearly expressed their disdain for Hindu customs and traditions.

“The common Hindu greeting ‘Namaskar’ (‘I bow to the divinity within you’), traditional Hindu practices such as classical dance, music and sacred festivals such as Diwali and Holi have been spoofed. will legalize this attack on freedom and make Hindu temples more vulnerable to physical attacks,” said Shah.

Equality Labs also led the campaign that saw Seattle become the first US city to outlaw racial discrimination in February. The resolution was introduced by Kshama Sawant and approved by the Seattle City Council six to one. In California, State Senator Ayesha Wahab, the first Muslim and Afghan American elected to the state legislature, introduced the bill last month.