Social Question

Pele's avatar

Do you think we have some form of a caste system like India here in the U.S.?

Asked by Pele (2639 points ) May 23rd, 2011

It’s just seems like at times its hard for some to grow and succeed out of bad living situations that one may be born into. Even that aside. Minority’s are judged as well. It’s seems some can be overly judgemental and quick to label. I had a hard time getting jobs in the mainland because I’m from Hawaii and they were worried if I spoke english (everybody speaks english in Hawaii!!). It boggled my mind. Then I thought of what hispanics and asians probley go through (friends of mine being treated like dirt, I was so sad). What about people from ghettos and what not, as well? People are quick to call someone “white trash” too. We are all individuals yet we are all labeled in groups. It all seems so hateful. Almost like a caste system.

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15 Answers

Pele's avatar

Crap, did I make an untouchable question?

Plucky's avatar

Yes, I believe there is a hushed caste system in the USA. It’s just more subliminal and unofficial – the more modern term for it would be “social class”.

snowberry's avatar

I know it’s possible for a person to break out of whatever social class they were born into. I’ve seen it over and over. Doing so involves persistence and flexibilty, as well as a positive attitude and an ability to adapt and learn. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it can be done. Sometimes it also means someone else needs to lend a helping hand.

Blackberry's avatar

Obviously. Did you think everyone was equal or something lol? There’s a status hierarchy, although that doesn’t mean one has to stay in their status forever.

Pele's avatar

Duh, @snowberry I know it can be done. I’m talking about class prejudice making it harder. I know it’s possible.

What about single moms that are forced to be pigeonholed just so they can receive goverment help? If they get an okay job, their funds are cut. Than they get less money and can’t afford to take care of their family or be there to raise thier family. Cause they want to work. There’s no boost to help them futher their lives. The system is flawed.

snowberry's avatar

Yep. Show me a system that ISN’T flawed.

Unfortunately becoming a single mother will normally (unless you have funds) pigeonhole you for many years.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

I am not an expert on caste systems, but it seems to me that if you’re born into a caste that is where you are for life, and each caste has (or doesn’t have) certain privileges enforced not just by society norms, but by the government as well. In India, there was a very long history of a caste system and while today the government there does not recognize a caste system societal norms and traditions still seem to adhere to one.

Anyways, In america we all have a right to equal protection under the law, social classes do exist however no one is bound to one by birth or law. In fact the opportunity for upward mobility is the reason immigrants flock to america, after all working hard and living out a humble happy life is part of the american dream isn’t it. If you think we have something like a caste system in the United States, you are not grasping what a caste system is.

tedd's avatar

A “form” of a caste system, sure. It is hard to jump from class to class or what have you.

But its nowhere near as bad as a “pure” caste system. (at least not yet)

lonelydragon's avatar

We do not have a pure caste system, but social class barriers can be difficult to break through. According to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, some European countries enjoy greater economic mobility than the United States.

There are a number of groups in the US who find it difficult to rise up the economic ladder. For example, according to this USA Today article, Gen Y will be one of the first generations with lower lifetime earnings than their parents because of the recession and the decrease in jobs that provide benefits and an adequate living wage.

In addition to young people, single mothers have trouble due to the work/childcare balance and cuts in government assistance. And single mothers don’t just struggle economically, but socially as well. Although the stigma of being a single mother has lessened somewhat, negative stereotypes still exist.

Finally, as you pointed out, immigrants are also negatively stereotyped, and these stereotypes can present an obstacle to gainful employment. Like single mothers, immigrants are also represented negatively in the popular press and in some policy makers’ decisions.

As you observed, members of these and other economically disadvantaged groups can advance themselves, but it takes hard work, and even hard work may not be enough for some. The people with the most phsyically demanding jobs and the longest work hours are often the most poorly paid.

Qingu's avatar

I think caste is pretty different from social class. Even racially-enforced social class.

Marx would argue that they’re both superficial manifestations of a deeper, underlying power structure. But I think that’s too blunt an analysis. Caste systems seem to have much more in common with medieval aristocracies with their dedicated divine-right knights and kings and their separate class of priests. Both systems are heavily reinforced by religion and have much lower social mobility than modern bourgeois-proletariat social classes.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I can see how one would think that it’s hard to move from class to class – but isn’t it easier in America than pretty much any other country? Isn’t that part of the allure for immigrants that come here?

I don’t think we have a caste system. In caste systems, it is legally and religiously forbidden to move from class to class, you literally cannot do it, nor can any of your decedents, no matter what. I think that’s like saying that just because people may not like what you have to say, you’ve somehow lost your right to free speech here.

linguaphile's avatar

George Bernard Shaw got it right… Cap’n, buy a flower off a poor girl?
IMO… We are judged by our speech and how we say things. The way people talk brings immediate judgment of what social-economic status that person is in, and many opportunities are opened or closed to people because of how they say things, how they ask questions, how they word their statements/questions, their intonation, prosody— all that. I truly do think our speech typecasts us and often keeps people in a ‘caste.’ Usually, a person’s speech patterns are learned from their parents, so it looks like it’s inherited.
I really don’t think people can gain much caste mobility in the United States unless they are able to adapt their speech patterns to fit a higher SES caste. Maybe that’s why Europe is a bit more flexible these days- with everyone being bi-tri-multi-lingual and perfect speech not being as expected?
It doesn’t even have to be the usual stereotypical backwoods bumpkin, or inner city thug—it can be a confident young girl who happens to have a high pitched, questioning voice. She will most likely not be given authority or better paying jobs until she can change her intonation.
Calling for a little rain in Spain falling mainly on the plain :)

GladysMensch's avatar

The best example of a caste system in the U.S…. any public high school. (I didn’t attend a private school, so I can’t speak to them).

Qingu's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs, actually, social mobility is lower in America than in many other first world countries.

So much for the land of opportunity. But I do agree with your general point. :)

mattbrowne's avatar

Celebrities.
Wall Street Bankers.
Hard working people actually paying taxes.
Folks without health insurance.

There you go.

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