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Spring has arrived and I’ve read great books over the winter, including a book on my desk titled “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson.

A caste is a system of social hierarchy that dates back more than 3,000 years in South Asia and is a basis of discrimination imposed on people by birth–and castes still exist today.

For those considered to be lower caste, Wilkerson writes, “A caste system is an artificial construction, a fixed and embedded ranking of human value that set the presumed supremacy of one group against the presumed inferiority of other groups on the basis of ancestry and often immutable traits, traits that would be neutral in the abstract but are ascribed life-and-death meaning in a hierarchy favoring the dominating caste whose forebears designed it.”

Wilkerson helps us see how the caste system imposed in India is like a caste system imposed upon African Americans in the United States.

Under recent state law, California is the first state in the nation to launch a comprehensive process to study and make recommendations on the negative effects of slavery on living African American descendants. In addition, a newly proposed bill seeks to add “caste” as a protected category in the state’s anti-discrimination law, making California the first state to do so.

As California's first and oldest institution of higher learning, Pacific has always been a leader in offering timely, innovative and relevant education. This month we conclude Pacific’s Anti-racism Challenge with more than 500 enrolled students, staff and faculty educating themselves about racism and its intersecting effects in society.