April Community Letter: Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
April 05, 2023
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.
Please join me April 28 in conversation with Dalit activist and Executive Director of Equality Labs, Thenmozhi Soundararajan as we discuss caste systems globally and in California and what we need to know about this important issue.
Pacific has a dynamic line-up of diversity, equity and inclusion speakers and community conversations during April, and I invite you to attend one or more of the following events:
Pride Month Keynote Speaker: Trudie Jackson | April 6
Pride, Shame & Everything in Between | April 12
An Evening with Kristy Drutman | April 17
Chai Chats with Manteca Mayor Gary Singh | April 19
Queer Night Out: A Queer Social | April 21
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association | Culture Night 2023 | April 22
A Conversation with Thenmozhi Soundararajan | April 28
This is a special time for many Pacificans who observe Eid al-Fitr, Passover, Ridvan (Baha’i), Shavuot, Good Friday and Easter. We celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Arab American Heritage Month, LGBTQ+ Month and affirm the diverse cultural, religious and spiritual backgrounds of our community.
In keeping with our traditions, my hope is that we learn about and engage in what’s offered. All are welcome here and are invited to learn vital histories so we become better humans.
Mary J. Lomax-Ghirarduzzi
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Professor of Communication