A caste system is a social structure types that prides itself in ranking people or segregating people according to their inherited position in the society. Many societies could be described as have such a kind of social arrangement. In this arrangement member of a particular caste are expected are expected to keep to their caste by marrying and interacting with people who are in the same social class with them (Smith). As such mobility from one caste system to another in many societies is limited or non-existent. Actually such systems exist in numerous places in the world and are associated with social class as mention and racial classification of individual (Smith). In this paper I will discus the caste system and the role played by social class and race in the world, especially in area where these three are dominant in social relationships.
As mentioned above almost every society and country has a caste system unique to its social environment. However, the Indian caste system, the oldest ever known, is the most prominent and much talked about world-wide. Smith notes that within the caste system, each social class or category is refered to as a caste. Each caste thus giver the hierarchical arrangement of social classes a unique outlook. In this regard there are several unique characteristics that distinguish any caste system. Firsts, there is a tendency of the systems tending towards endogamy (Smith). Endogamy in this case is the limitation that ensures a particular social class continues to exist by limiting marriage outside ones class. Certainly case mobility is rare although in some societies it is possible while in other it is very difficult, for instance when one is born a laborer he or she can not transfer to a scholar or any other class considered to be above his although it is still possible but in rare circumstances. According to Smith the political power in most societies is also held by the people who are held by those ranked top in the caste system or those whose social class is the highest and prestigious.
Further more caste may divide along cultural, linguistic and economical characteristics. Certain culture and language may be perceive to belong to outcasts or unclean people and those who poses such a language or a culture may find themselves lowered to lower caste while language and mannerism believed to be superior may be confined to the higher categories. Also the poor or economical weak tend to fall in the lower social classes while status rises with the rise in the economic capability for instance the laborers are in a lower category compared to the merchants (Ross). In a caste system of social arrangement, every member of the society clearly knows and understands their position within the society and likewise everybody's social status is always apparent to every other member of the society (Smith).
According to Smith despite the Indian caste system being elaborate and famous throughout the world, it is believed that the world at large borrowed the original idea from the Portuguese. Evidently, the English speaker at about 1555 adopted the Portuguese word "casta" and frequently used it to refer to race as well as breeding. In Portuguese however, the word was frequently used to refer the Portuguese stratified society. Latter when the Indian social stratification system was encountered at around 1600 CE, it was referred to as a caste system from the Portuguese's point of view.
The Indian caste system
Despite having been embraced by all Indian societies irrespective of their faith, the foundation of the caste system embraced by Indians lies within the Hindu scriptures. As the Hindu scriptures put is, as society can be divided or subdivided into various totally distinct segment of partitions, which are known as the Vamas. The Hindu scripture, Bhagavad Gita, clearly delineates the society into five distinct and major castes or Varms. These Varmas from the highest to the lowest are Brahmins made up of teachers and priests, Ksatriyas, made up of rulers and warriors, Vasisyas made up of farmers, merchants, artisans among others, the Sudras made up of manual laborers' and finally the Outcasts who are the untouchables. The ouctacas are also known as the Dailt. However, the system has room for foreigners who conform to its requirements (Smith).
Again, within each Varma exists hundreds of sub castes known as the Jati which as totally separate from one another and also endogamous (Ross). The sub-castes however are mostly unique to given geographical region, differences in specializations, occupations corporate structure as well as the administrative structure. A good example of this can be seen in Mahatma Gandhi the former independence leader of the Indian republic. When Gandhi wanted to travel to Europe to go and study law he first sought he permission of his sub-caste ; Modh Bania before leaving India. In this sub-caste the name Bania means Merchant while the name Gandhi stands for "green-grocer." This was enough to tell anyone that Mahatma Gandhi was a Vaishya (Ross). The Jatis are based on lineage while on the other hand the Varmas are based of the ideology of gun.as which are three powers mentioned in the Hindu scripture the Gita. In these caste system the Brahmins, Ksatryas and the Vaisyas are born twice while the Sudreas are bon only once (Smith).
As Ross observes being twice born has nothing concerned with reincarnation be means that a person has come of age in religious terms and is the part of the Vedic religion. Such an individual can learn Sanskrit, perform the Vedas rituals as well as learn the Veda. Second birth can this be associated with confirmation. Boys from different castes become born again at different ages, Brahmins at 8, Ksatriyas at 11 and the Vaishyas at 12. After this a thread is won around the waist to indicate that a person is born twice. The equivalent of this for girls is coming of marriage and they receive a thread for their waist during wedding ceremonies (Ross). Such ceremonies have been reported in ancient Iran and these together with other bits of evidence have contributed to speculation that the three classes of the twice born are a product of the Indo-European social arrangement system as such arrangement are even observable in the distance Celts. Also, the three group are believed to have has an influence on the three classes of Plato's Republic. Despite the evidence of numerous intermarriages having occurred in India, there is no other place where an Indo-European social system was made as rigid as it was in India. However, the rigidity may as well have been a product of karma, which suggests that poor birth is always deserved.
The varmas could be termed as divisions at a theoretical plane whereas the jatis could be seen as what embodies this system for practical purposes. Furthermore the jatis could be ranked in accordance to one another thus making it very difficult to determine the varma in which a particular jati belong to. Nevertheless, the member of the jatis can switch professions or their occupations and consequently rise in prestige and even get elevated to the next varma (Ross).
In the Indian caste system each class or varma is associated with a particular color which may seem to be a kind of race or racism in the way the castes are classified (Ross). This is because the color being considered is the skin color in most parts of India with the exception of the southern parts. As Ross notes the issues of color are believed to date back to the Aryans invasion. Aryans were light-skinned people from central Asia as opposed to the original inhabitants who were dark. Evidently, numerous present inhabitants of idea look dark or black. However apart from the skin color the Indians share several features with the Caucasians. In their caste system the Brahmin are white, the Kisatriyas are red, the Vaisyas brown and the Sudras black. Since the Untouchable are not a proper class or varma they are not ascribed any specific or traditional color.
This unique and overwhelmingly stratified society however, started being reformed during the struggle for independence and currently the discrimination that existed on the basis of the castes system is no longer permitted in the modern India (Smith). Unfortunately, the still remains numerous residual effects of the system in India and are visible in the way people relate or interact. For instance, Indians who are considered to be member of what used to be the lower caste system face numerous difficulties as well as legal inhibitions when they try to join politics.
Ross reports that currently, the status of the untouchables, Shudras as well as other "scheduled castes," in addition to the preferential policies designed by the Indian government for prosperity since independence sever as the major source of terrible conflicts leading to riots, murders, and suicides within the Indian Society. The economic liberalization that started in the country in 19991 however has encouraged and improved social mobility in the modern economy. Urban life has also disrupted the traditional social arrangements oppression and professions. This because the village economy settings is what favored and encouraged caste systems to flourish,
Caste in other parts of the world
Social stratification have existed in many other societies around the world for instance castes systems have been reported in Europe, Middle East and Nigeria in Africa where that dehumanizing caste system "Osu" was popular. The stratification have mainly been bases on lineage for instance royal families from the former monarchial systems or leadership have remained to be held as prestigious in many societies which a good example being Britain where the queens family is still accorded great esteem. Many people can join such a class through marriage. Economic factors have also severed as a mean of the existence of castes systems where by the economical powerful have always been in the higher castes compared to the poor the poor. This is also still evident in the present day society worldwide. Politics and religion also had their fair share of influence which they still possess today. The western world is currently social class stratification which is however not as rigid as that experienced in India.
Role of Race and Class
Race and social classes play several roles in different arenas in the present societies worldwide. According to Henry the issues or race and social classes within the American society are severely intertwined like a DNA chain. It is impossible to talk or race without talk of the social classes and likewise it is impossible to talk of social classes without touching on issues pertaining race. However, the American society tends to avoid discussions concerning race and social classes since they tend to make may people uneasy (Henry).
In many places around the world races and social class serve as a means of creating and propagating castes new caste systems in areas that they never existed before. Social class and race have served a facilitator of segregation in many parts of the world. For instance in America residential areas are normally inhabited according to race and social classes. In most cases the African-Americans who are mostly found in the lower social classes inhabited in poor residential area that are normally congested and have poor living conditions. The rich and mostly the whites are to be found in affluent residential areas in which all utilities and services are provided (Denton & Villarrubia, 51).
Also education attainment is highly influenced by the racial differences and differences in the social economic status of individuals. In many parts of the world racial segregation exists in many parts of the worlds in learning institution and the member of the race that is normally looked down upon in such as setting have limited access to better education as compared to their favored counterparts.
In politics race and social classes play an important role in determining who wins and election. Politicians will always develop political and economic agendas within their manifestos proclaiming to be pro poor and in support of the discriminated upon groups in order to gain their approval for whichever office they are vying for. For many years, politicians have played dirty politics by given those in lower social classes' empty promises and using them to gain influence and popularity. A politician's race also determines whether he or she will be elected or not. For instance the rise of Obama the current present U.S. president received numerous supports from the Americans and the world art large due to his race. There could be some truth in this belief since the white may have voted for a black president as a means of trying to get behind the dark past of what their racialism loving ancestor did to the ancestors of the current African-American population.
Race and social classes also play an important role in the influencing of crime and justice. I America members of the minority groups such as the African-American and Hispanic which are normally associated with lowers social classes are normally targeted by the authorities for the alleged involvement in crime. In the context the race and social classes have been ascribe the role who distinguishing between criminals and honorable members of the American society. As Susan in her article, "Race, Riches & Reporters- Do Race and Class Impact Media Rape Narratives? An analysis of the Duke Lacrosse case" observe, the existence of race and different social classes has encouraged biases in the way the media cover crimes such as rape performed by members of different race an and social classes.
In many instances, people talk of equality in opportunities available to the members of different racial groups and social cluster. Some agitate for provision equality while some argues that the equity has already been achieved. However, it is worth noting that equity in the way the different races and social classes are treated is far from reality. Different people are denied various opportunities due to their race or social status in the society. The is mostly evident in enrolment in schools appointments and promotions at the work place and even in death the people from this categories are buried in different places in public cemeteries.
Certainly, a caste system is an elaborate system of social stratification that groups people according to various characteristics that they posses. Every society has it own form of social stratification whether sophisticated or simple. Unfortunately, these stratifications are used as a means of oppression and discrimination where members of particular categories or segments of the society are segregated and discriminated upon. In the contemporary society, the race and social classes have been ascribed different roles. Unfortunately most of this roles aim at exploitation of particular races and lower social classes for the benefit of upper classes of people.