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A black man drinks out of a water fountain designated for black people in 1939 at a streetcar terminal.
A black man drinks out of a water fountain designated for black people in 1939 at a streetcar terminal.

Racism refers to the beliefs and practices that assume inherent and significant differences exist between the genetics of various groups of human beings; that assume these differences can be measured on a scale of "superior" to "inferior"; and that result in the social, political and economic advantage of one group in relation to others.

In general, a racist practices the separation of groups according to race, and considers one's own race the most valuable and others less valuable. The belief that the character and abilities of individuals are correlated with their race is not necessarily racism, since this can be asserted without implying an inequality in value. The application of this belief in dealing with members of that race, especially with little regard for variations within "races", is known as racial prejudice. Granting or withholding rights or privileges based on race or refusing to associate with persons based on race is racial discrimination.

Racism has historically been defined as the belief that race is the primary determinant of human capacities, that a certain race is inherently superior or inferior to others, and/or that individuals should be treated differently according to their racial designation. Sometimes racism means beliefs, practices, and institutions that discriminate against people based on their perceived or ascribed race. There is a growing, but somewhat controversial, opinion that racism is a system of oppression -- a nexus of racist beliefs, whether explicit, tacit or unconscious; practices; organizations and institutions that combine to discriminate against and societally marginalize a class of people who share a common racial designation, based on that designation.

Some believe that the term also is often used incorrectly by supporters of cultural relativism and political correctness to stigmatise their adversaries due to the association between racism and extreme violence in parts of the twentieth century.

Since the last quarter of the 20th century, there have been few in developed nations who describe themselves as racist, so that identification of a group or person as racist is nearly always controversial. Racism is regarded by many as an affront to basic human dignity and a violation of human rights. A number of international treaties have sought to end racism. The United Nations uses a definition of racist discrimination laid out in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and adopted in 1966:

...any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. [1]


From "racial theory" to "racism"

Before considering racism, it is an important methodological point to distinguish historically when the concept of "racism" became known as such. Historians disagree largely when "race" emerged as a concept, ranging from those who believe aspects of it have always existed among humans, to those who place it as a concept separate from general distrust of "difference" (in which case it emerged either in the Age of Exploration or even as late as the 19th century). In any event, the division of people into discrete groups, usually based on external anatomical features or assumed geographic origin, and theories about how many "races" there were, and theories of how to "rank" these races against each other, existed long before they acquired any sort of distinct stigma against them. Fear of sexual relations between Colored men and White women was central to the tenets of racism. During the late-19th century, a number of thinkers emphasized that these views were morally and ethically unjust, but this was a significantly minority opinion. Even those who opposed institutions such as slavery often did so not on the basis of equality of races, but on overall equality in treatment of "mankind".

In the 20th century, however, there began a growth of thought that theories of racial "superiority" and "inferiority" were inherently problematic and wrong. Much of the discourse relating to racial theory of this sort came out of the United States in the years after the American Civil War, while European thinkers began to think of people in terms of linguistic "nations" more than they did "races." The term "racism", according to the Oxford English Dictionary, emerged in the early 1930s as distinct from the "theories of race" which had existed for at least a hundred years before that.

A turning point in racial thinking came with the rise of Adolf Hitler's Nazism, which built much of its political agenda upon the rhetoric of anti-Semitism and overt statements of racial superiority and inferiority. Full opposition to these ideas did not begin until the outbreak of World War II, and a large part of Allied propaganda efforts were in labeling Nazi Germany as a "racist" state, and distinguishing their own states from them. By the end of the war, the association of racism with the Nazis, and the genocidal policies they undertook, thoroughly established the meme that "racism" was something to be opposed. In the United States, the experience of the Civil Rights Movement further emphasized this point. Now, "racism" is seen as something entirely to be opposed by almost all mainstream voices, though there is little agreement over what is "racism". It is worth remembering this, when looking at current concepts of "racism". In hindsight, many eminent scientists, philosophers, and statesmen appear "racist" by late-20th century standards, though the recognition of the historical nature of these judgements is deemed by many to exonerate these figures or governments for their ideas or actions.

Origins of racism

One view of the origins of racism emphasizes stereotypes, which psychologists generally believe are influenced by cultural factors. People generally respond to others differently based on what they know, which may include superficial characteristics often associated with race. A "white" person walking after dark in a primarily "black" neighborhood in an American city might be anxious for a combination of reasons. The same may be said for an African-American walking in a white neighborhood. A police officer who spends most of his day in that same city encountering criminality or hostility among people of a certain ethnic background might be expected to react negatively to a member of that same ethnic group whom he meets off-duty. A law-abiding African-American man is less likely than a law-abiding white man to view that same police officer as an ally and protector, and more as a threat to his or her personal safety and well-being. In both sets of cases, theories of conditioning may apply.

Debates over the origins of racism often suffer from a lack of clarity over the term. Many use the term "racism" to refer to more general phenomena, such as xenophobia and ethnocentrism. Others conflate recent forms of racism with earlier forms of ethnic and national conflict. In most cases, ethno-national conflict seems to owe to conflict over land and strategic resources. In some cases ethnicity and nationalism were harnessed to rally combatants in wars between great religious empires (for example, the Muslim Turks and the Catholic Austro-Hungarians). As Benedict Anderson has suggested in Imagined Communities, ethnic identity and ethno-nationalism became a source of conflict within such empires with the rise of print-capitalism.

Notions of race and racism, however, often have played central roles in such conflicts. Historically, when an adversary is identified as "other" based on notions of race or ethnicity (particularly when "other" is construed to mean "inferior"), the means employed by the self-presumed "superior" party to appropriate territory, human chattel, or material wealth often have been more ruthless, more brutal, and less constrained by moral or ethical considerations. Indeed, based on such racist presumptions, the political or moral decision to enter into armed conflict can be made less weighty when one's potential adversaries are "other than," because their lives are perceived as having lesser importance, lesser value. In history, some examples of the brutalizing and dehumanizing effects of racism, are: the trading of smallpox-infested blankets among Native Americans as a biological weapon in order to reduce their population.

In the western world, racism evolved, twinned with the doctrine of white supremacy, and helped fuel the European exploration, conquest, and colonization of much of the rest of the world -- especially after Christopher Columbus reached the Americas. Basil Davidson insists in his documentary, Africa: Different but Equal, that racism, in fact, only just recently surfaced—as late as the 1800’s, due to the need for a justification of slavery in the Americas. The idea of slavery as an "equal-opportunity employer" was denounced with the introduction of Christian theory in the West. Maintaining that Africans were "subhuman" was the only loophole in the then accepted law that "men are created equal" that would allow for the sustenance of the Triangular Trade. New peoples in the Americas, possible slaves, were encountered, fought, and ultimately subdued, but then due to western diseases, their population decreased innumerably. Through both influences, theories about "race" developed, and these helped many to justify the differences in position and treatment of people whom they categorized as belonging to different races (see Eric Wolf's Europe and the People Without History). Some people like Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda even argued that the Native Americans were natural slaves. In Asia, the Chinese and Japanese Empires were both strong colonial powers, with the Chinese making colonies and vassal states of much of mainland Asia, and the Japanese doing the same in the west Pacific. In both cases, the Asian imperial powers believed they were ethnically and racially superior to their vassals, and entitled to be their masters.


Racism may be expressed individually and consciously, through explicit thoughts, feelings, or acts, or socially and unconsciously, through institutions that promote inequalities among "races". Although some speakers attempt to express a semantic distinction by using the word racism rather than racialism (or vice versa), many treat the terms as synonymous (see below).

Racism may be divided in three major subcategories: individual racism, structural racism, and ideological racism.

Examples of individual racism include an employer not hiring a person, failing to promote or giving harsher duties or imposing harsher working conditions, or firing, someone, in whole or in part due to his race.

Researchers at the University of Chicago (Marianne Bertrand) and Harvard University (Sendhil Mullainathan) found in a 2003 study that there was widespread discrimination in the workplace against job applicants whose names were merely perceived as "sounding black." These applicants were 50% less likely than candidates perceived as having "white-sounding names" to receive callbacks for interviews, no matter their level of previous experience. Results were stronger for higher quality resumes. The researchers view these results as strong evidence of unconscious biases rooted in the country's long history of discrimination. This is an example of structural racism, because it shows a widespread established belief system. Another example is apartheid in South Africa, and the system of Jim Crow laws in the United States of America. Another source is lending inequities of banks, and so-called redlining.

Racism is usually directed against a minority population, but may also be directed against a majority population. Examples include racial apartheid in South Africa, wherein whites (a minority) discriminated against blacks (a majority) or contemporary United States of America wherein federal legislation has been interpreted as mandating preferential treatment for non whites; this form of racism also occurred during the former colonial rule of such countries as Vietnam (by France) and India (by the United Kingdom). This is known in United States politics as "reverse racism".

"Reverse racism" is a controversial concept; it is usually applied to instances of perceived discrimination against members of a dominant (rather than minority) group, usually as a reaction to previous policies racism by said group. In the United States, many people, mostly conservatives, criticize policies such as affirmative action as an example of reverse racism. They point out that insofar as these policies provide preference to certain racial groups and not others, they are race-based discrimination, even if their goal is to correct a previous act of discrimination. Supporters of affirmative action argue that those policies counteract a systemic and cultural racism by providing a balancing force, and that it does not qualify as racist because they are enacted by politicians (mostly part of the majority) and directed towards their own race.

Increasingly significant numbers of white people (i.e. people of European ethnicity) believe that political correctness has led to a denigration of the white race, through "special attention" paid to minority races. For example, they consider the existence of Black History Month (February) but not a White History Month, Amerindian History Month, or Asian History Month to be de facto racism directed at the majority and non-black minorities. Yet again, others argue that the lack of a White History Month is due to the fact that much of the school year is devoted to teaching history from a Eurocentric perspective.

Racial discrimination is and has been official government policy in many countries. In the 1970s, Uganda expelled tens of thousands of ethnic Indians. Until 2003, Malaysia enforced discriminatory policies limiting access to university education for ethnic Chinese and Indian students who are citizens by birth of Malaysia, and many other policies explicitly favoring bumiputras (Malays) remain in force. Russia launched anti-Semitic pogroms against Jews in 1905 and after. During the 1930s and 1940s, attempts were made to prevent Jews from immigrating to the Middle East. Following the creation of Israel, land-ownership in many Israeli towns was limited to Jews, and many Muslim countries expelled Jewish Arabs and continue to refuse entry to Jews.

In the United States, racial profiling of minorities by law enforcement officials is a controversial subject. Some people consider this to be a form of racism. Some claim that profiling young Arab male fliers at airports will only lead to increased recruitment of older, non-Arab, and female terrorists, as well as Arab males who might be mistaken for white males. Many critics of racial profiling claim that it is an unconstitutional practice because it amounts to questioning individuals on the basis of what crimes they might commit or could possibly commit, instead of what crimes they have actually committed. See the article on racial profiling for more information on this dispute.

Racism by country

In 19th century Europe and America, some scientists developed various theories about biological differences among races, and these theories were in turn used to legitimize racist beliefs and practices. Much of this work has since been rejected by the scientific community as flawed and even as pseudoscience.

Today there are some scientists who claim that "race", in the general sense in which the term is used, is a social construct: the way in which individuals are classified into racial groups varies from person to person, and from place to place, and from time to time. These scientists say that superficial characteristics which are associated with racial groupings are poor predictors of genetic variability. There can be more genetic variation within a racial grouping than between two racial groupings. They also point to the lack of well-defined boundaries to racial classifications; for example characteristics such as skin colour and facial appearance can be shown to vary as a continuum from place to place. Other scientists counter that "sex" and "species" are likewise seen by some as socially constructed. After all, humans and chimpanzees (or males and females) are far more genetically alike than different. According to this view, categories need not be absolute in order to have scientific utility.


See White Australia Policy and Terra nullius.


Austria has something of a reputation for being one of Europe's more racist countries. Much of this stems from its history of anti-semitism and in particular the fact that Adolf Hitler came from the country, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Following World War One Austria reluctantly became an independent country, however the vast majority of citizens wanted union (Anschluss) with Germany. Support for Hitler and the Nazi Party was undoubtedly strong in Austria, leading eventually to Anschluss in 1938 after which Austria became a region of Germany like any other. Austria played as much a part as the rest of Germany in the growing persecution of the Jews and the subsequent Holocaust, as well as in the persecution of the Roma.

Austria has since been criticised of trying to sweep its Nazi past under the carpet, typifed by the widely pronounced myth that Austria was a victim of Nazi aggression rather than a willing participant. This has its origins as an Allied propaganda tactic. This complacency was severly tested in the 1986 presidential race when it emerged that Kurt Waldheim (a former UN secretary general) had concealed (or forgotten) certain facts about his war-time military service with the Wehrmacht. The revelations caused much controversy in Austria as well as in the outide world. Nevertheless Waldheim was elected President. Controversy again erupted in 2000 when Jörg Haider's far-right Freedom Party entered into coalition with the centre-right People's Party having gained 27% of the vote. An international outcry resulted in the European Union issuing diplomatic sanctions in protest.

However much progress has been made with settling the disputes and compensation for Jews and others whose property and assets were seized during the Nazi era, with a deal completed in 2001. Less encouraging was a 2000 Amnesty International report that declared Austria's police force to be institutionally racist, with the commonplace use of excessive force and violence against inmates and prisoners. Elections in 2002 saw a significant drop in support for the Freedom Party, with the party subsequently splitting into opposing factions.


While Canada often depicts its society as being a very progressive, tolerant, diverse, and multicultural nation, Canada also has its own history of racism. Although the historical records are not very clear at the very beginnings of the country's history, one can argue that the first event of racism in Canada occurred during the first trip of Jacques Cartier in 1534, when he brought back two Iroquois more or less against their will to France, which greatly amused the French royal court. Later, although still not very clearly recognised in the mainstream culture (where it is more seen as territorial wars), much racism occurred between the French and the First Nations people, between First Nations tribes themselves (fuelled by alliances of certain tribes with the French, and others with the English), between the English and the First Nations, and between the English and the French. Although the country's history was influenced greatly by these wars, the relationships between all those ethnicities has changed a lot since the beginning of European settlement in Canada.

Moreover, there are notable records of slavery in Canada in the 1700s. More than half of all Canadian slaves were aboriginal. In 1793, Upper Canada governor John Graves Simcoe passed a bill making it illegal to bring a person into the colony for the purposes of enslavement, and slavery was fully outlawed in 1834.

Starting in 1858, Chinese "coolies" were brought to Canada to work in the mines and on the Canadian Pacific Railway. However, they were denied by law the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote, and in the 1880s, "head taxes" were implemented to curtail immigration from China. In 1907, a riot in Vancouver targeted Chinese and Japanese-owned businesses. In 1923, the federal government passed the Chinese Immigration Act, commonly known as the Exclusion Act, prohibiting further Chinese immigration except under "special circumstances". The Exclusion Act was repealed in 1947, the same year in which Chinese Canadians were finally given the right to vote.

Restrictions still existed on immigration from Asia. In 1967, these restrictions were repealed and Asian immigrants were given the same rights as any other group. In 1999, Adrienne Clarkson, the child of Chinese immigrants who moved to Canada in 1942 under the "special circumstances" clause, became Governor General of Canada. Japanese Canadians were also subject to anti-Asian racism, particularly during World War II when many Canadians of Japanese heritage -- even those who were born in Canada -- were forcibly moved to internment camps. The government of Canada officially made restitution for the treatment of Japanese Canadians in 1988.

More recently, Canada has been perceived as practicing systemic, institutionalized racism by allowing employers to require Canadian-based job experience in a potential employee. This puts landed immigrants at a clear disadvantage, and can often result in highly educated people working for much lower pay than their Canadian educated counterparts, or even struggling with a minimum wage job. This unequal footing has left many new immigrants feeling disillusioned with the entire immigration process, and segregated from Canadian culture as a whole. Both as an expression of protest, and as a means of warning potential immigrants still overseas, online groups have formed to share information and stories of victimization. [2], [3]

However, racism in Canada has not only been connected to immigration. French Canadians, including Acadians, Québécois and Franco-ontarians, and aboriginals have purportedly also been subject to discriminatory treatment in Canada. However, having French recognised as an official language was seen as a step towards today's "multiculturalism".

Notable organizations in Canadian history have included the Parti national social chrétien, and the Heritage Front. Other notable individuals in this context include Adrien Arcand, Ernst Zündel, Doug Christie, Wolfgang Droege and Don Andrews.


The French have a long history of ethnic and racial conflicts. Anti-semitism, a common trend in European history is also highlighted in French history by events such as the Dreyfus affaire, and France's irresponsible treatment of its Jewish population during Nazi occupation. Likewise, the treatment of North Africans and other former colonials during the collonial era, the atrocities commited by France during the Algerian War of independence (1954-1962) are also signs of intoletance. The fact that Algerians formed the bulk of late-twentieth century immigration has raised delicate issues, exacerbated by the degradation of the general social situation. In the 1970s Jean Raspail wrote The Camp of the Saints which some felt implied African immigrants should be drowned or shot to prevent them from entering France.

In 1998 the Council of Europe's European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) made a report stating concern about racist activities in France and accused the French authorities of not doing enough to combat this. The report and other groups have expressed concern about organizations like Front National (France). In a recent Pew Survey, 47% of the French deem immigration from Eastern Europe to be a bad thing. A small minority shows signs of Anti-Semitism. Roughly 11% had an unfavorable view of Jews[4] and 8% felt that US policy was most influenced by the Jews[5]. In the colonial age some French also displayed negative sentiments toward black Africans.

Nevertheless these judgments should be balanced by the following: Canadians had roughly the same percentage linking US policy to Jews as France did. Furthermore, France had been ruled by Jewish leaders during the twentieth century (most notably Leon Blum and Pierre Mendes-France, who were both highly popular...) Indeed, France has a long history of support for universalism dating back to the Enlightenment : the unenforced constitution of 1794 gave the right to vote to all "foreigners" (independently of any racial consideration) living in France for more than one year. The French also generally have a greater interest in African culture and aid to the region.

In late October of 2005, violent riots erupted in north-east Paris, and later other cities around France, after two youths of North African origin were accidentally electrocuted after supposedly fleeing police.


Nazi Germany

1935 chart from Nazi Germany used to explain the Nuremberg Laws
1935 chart from Nazi Germany used to explain the Nuremberg Laws

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 used a pseudoscientific basis for racial discrimination against Jews. People with four German grandparents (white circles on the chart illustration) were of "German blood", while people were classified as Jews if they descended from three or more Jewish grandparents (black circles in top row right). One or more Jewish grandparents made someone "mixed blood." The Nazis used the religious observance of a person's grandparents to determine their race.

See also:


Elements of Sangh Parivar and Vishva Hindu Parishad have been accused of inciting ethnic tension. In general tensions in India are more religious than racial in nature, but there have been some reports of ethnic tension between Tamil people and the Hindi majority. Others state some in India accepted Aryan_Invasion_Theory#Racial_interpretations_of_the_Vedic_Aryans Racial interpretations of Vedic writing.

Of some relevance is Asit Krishna Mukherji who was a Bengali Brahmin who openly supported Hitler and married an Esoteric Hitlerist.

See also Ethnic conflict in India.


See Jakarta Riots of May 1998.


Traditionally there has been very little immigration by non-whites to the Republic of Ireland due to historic poverty, though in recent times growing prosperity in the country (see: Celtic Tiger) has attracted increasing numbers of immigrants, mainly from Africa, China, and Eastern Europe. Also the absence of any colonisation of other country has meant that foreign people are not drawn to Ireland by "mother country" factors that have effected other European countries. Descendants of Irish people who emigrated in the past have also started moving to the country. Most immigrants have settled in Dublin and the other cities. Though these developments have been accepted or tolerated by most, there has been a rise in so-called racist attitudes among some sections of society. Although most racism takes the form of verbal and other petty abuses.

Several issues relating to immigration have gained widespread publicity in recent years. After 1997 and prior to 2005 any baby born in the Republic was entitled to Irish citizenship due to stipulations in the Good Friday agreement. This led to many pregnant women (overwhelmingly from Nigeria) from Africa, having discarded their identification documentation to travel directly to Ireland expressly to give birth and thus allow their child to gain Irish citizenship. This became known as citizenship tourism. Following the noted abuses of the loophole in the Irish Constitution a referendum on the issue was held. The referendum was duly carried and the loophole was closed.

In 2005 Nigerian student Olukunle Elukanlo was deported after his asylum application failed, despite the fact that he had not yet completed his exams. Following an outcry by various activist groups at the descision he was allowed to return to complete his exams. The issue highlighted the growing numbers of failed asylum seekers been deported, and issue which is often controversial to some (despite that fact that very few failed applicants are actually deported). This has been highlighted in recent television and radio programmes focused on exposing the extreme high cost to the Irish taxpayer of processing false asylum claims in addition to the cost of returning bogus asylum-seekers to their country of origin.

Many Irish people are very proud of being in the European Union, but increasingly large numbers resent migrants from outside the Union coming to Ireland expressly for the purpose of claiming asylum, without having applied for asylum in other countries along their route as is required by international law. There are several "anti-racism" groups active in the Republic, as well as those seeking tighter immigration laws such as the Immigration Control Platform.


See Ethnic issues in Japan

New Zealand

The 2005 general election has been criticized in some quarters as playing on Maori issues in a racial way.[6] A 2003 study by the Human Rights Commission showed 70% of New Zealanders think that Asians face significant discrimination.

Although New Zealand did not have an official policy along the lines of the White Australia Policy, it did engage in the land wars with the aboriginal Maori during the mid-19th Century, and imposed a poll tax on Chinese immigrants during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In one high profile incident in 1905, an elderly Chinese man was shot dead in Wellington by Lionel Terry, a recently arrived Englishman who was later committed to a mental asylum. The poll tax was effectively lifted in the 1930s following the invasion of China by Japan, and was finally repealed in 1944.

After World War II, immigration policy remained largely Anglocentric until the mid-1980s, although war refugees and non-Anglo-Celtic migrants were allowed in the country in limited numbers. In the 1975 election campaign, opposition leader Robert Muldoon ran a scare campaign directed against Pacific Islands migrant workers, which was followed by a series of dawn raids on suspected overstayers. Land issues came to a head in the late 1970s with Maori protesters occupying the Raglan Golf Course and Bastion Point, with land claims on both being settled by the following decade.

In 1986, country-of-origin rules were abolished, leading to major inflows of immigration for the first time in years. However, anti-immigration rhetoric from populist politician Winston Peters has since forced immigration rules to be tightened.

United Kingdom

This postcard from the 1900s depicts an Englishman calling "BOY!" to a Chinaman to bring him a drink. The caption reads "The Call of the East".
This postcard from the 1900s depicts an Englishman calling "BOY!" to a Chinaman to bring him a drink. The caption reads "The Call of the East".

There were race riots across the United Kingdom in 1919: South Shields, Glasgow, London's East End, Liverpool, Cardiff, Barry, and Newport. There were further riots by immigrant and minority populations in East London during the 1930s, Notting Hill in the 1950s, and Brixton, Toxteth and Blackbird Leys, Oxford in the 1980s. More recently in 2001, there have been riots in Bradford and Oldham. These riots have followed cases of perceived racism - either the public displays of racist sentiment (including crimes against members of ethnic minorities which were subsequently ignored by the authorities), or, as in the Brixton and Toxteth riots, racial profiling and alleged harassment by the police force.

Racism in one form or another was widespread in Britain before the twentieth century, and during the 1900s particularly towards Jewish groups and immigrants from Eastern Europe. The English establishment even considered the Irish a separate and degenerate race until well into the 19th Century. Since World War I, public expressions of white supremacism have been limited to far-right political parties such as the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s and the British National Front in the 1970s, whilst most mainstream politicians have publicly condemned all forms of racism. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that racism remains widespread, and some politicians and public figures have been accused of excusing or pandering to racist attitudes in the media, particularly with regard to immigration. There have been growing concerns in recent years about institutional racism in public and private bodies, and the tacit support this gives to crimes resulting from racism, such as the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Gavin Hopely and Ross Parker.

The Race Relations Act 1965 outlawed public discrimination, and established the Race Relations Board. Further Acts in 1968 and 1976 outlawed discrimination in employment, housing and social services, and replaced the Race Relations Board with Commission for Racial Equality. The Human Rights Act 1999 made organizations in Britain, including public authorities, subject to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Race Relations Act 2000 extends existing legislation for the public sector to the police force, and requires public authorities to promote equality.

There have been tensions over immigration since at least the early 1900s. These were originally engendered by hostility towards Jews and immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe. Britain first began restricting immigration in 1905 and has also had very strong limits on immigration since the early 1960s. Legislation was particularly targeted at members of the British Commonwealth, who had previously been able to migrate to the UK under the British Nationality Act 1948. Virtually all legal immigration, except for those claiming refugee status, ended with the Immigration Act 1971; however, free movement for citizens of the European Union was later established by the Immigration Act 1988. Legislation in 1993, 1996 and 1999 gradually decreased the rights and benefits given to those claiming refugee statues ("asylum seekers"). A further government Act in 2002 gave Britain the most restrictive immigration laws of any country in the European Union.

Some commentators believe that a huge amount of racism has been undocumented within the UK, adducing the many British cities whose populations have a clear racial divide. While these commentators believe that race relations have improved immensely over the last thirty years, they still believe that racial segregation remains an important but largely unaddressed problem.


It has been reported that racial minorities are underrepresented in the police force[7]. Philomena de Lima noted that Scots sometimes feel there is "no problem here" because ethnic minorities are regarded as small in number, "invisible", and "silent." However, she found that in most schools, least 4% of students were minorities. In the urban areas tensions between Whites and Pakistanis occasionally flare up. In the past football(soccer in US English) has at times divided on racial lines with "Asian teams" versus "Scottish teams" causing conflict. Among the Scottish under 15 years old there is the positive sign that, "younger white pupils rarely drew on racist discourses."[8]

Northern Ireland

Racism in the United Kingdom is particularly acute in Northern Ireland. Despite having the smallest numbers of non-whites in the UK it has the highest levels of racist violence in the country (racially motivated attacks are at 16.4% per 1000 of the minority population, whilst in England and Wales the figure is 12.6%).

Traditionally there has been segregration, hatred and violence between Northern Ireland's two main communities: the Unionists/Loyalists, mostly Protestant, who want to remain within the UK and Nationalists/Republicans, mostly Catholic, who want a united Ireland. Following the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland the government of the province was controlled by and for Protestants, with a policy of systematic discrimination against Catholics, who formed roughly 1/3 of the population. Tensions eventually erupted in 'the Troubles' in 1968, which saw a renewed campaign of IRA activity and corresponding Loyalist paramilitary violence, the presence of British soldiers and extreme sectarianism fostered by frequent riots and violence.

More recently non-white people, especially Chinese, have started to live in Northern Ireland, primarily in the captial Belfast. Northern Ireland is 99% white, and racism against non-white communities is endemic, earning it the nickname 'the race hate capital of Europe.' Discrimination takes many forms such as the spraying of racist graffiti, intimidation, systematic intimidation with the aim or forcing out non-whites, assaults, general harrassment, protection racketing, vandalism and house burning. Attempts to build a mosque in Belfast was met by much opposition - the plan was eventually dropped.

Soviet Union, U.S.S.R., Russia etc

See Racism in Russia, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union.

The subject of racism in Russia is at present controversial and heated. However a Pew Survey showed that of those who believed some religions are more violent than others 10% of Russians named Judaism[9] as the most violent. This was the highest percentage outside the Muslim world. Further a previous poll showed that 25% of Russians had an unfavorable view of Jews.[10] Racism towards Central Asians is said to be even more widespread.

United States of America

Main article: Racism in the United States
This racist item from the 1900s shows a casual denigration of black women.
This racist item from the 1900s shows a casual denigration of black women.

Apologists mistakenly claim the United States is free of racism. They point to the comparatively positive view Americans have of immigrants,[11] or the lack of racial genocide in US history when compared to the levels seen in Germany or by European imperialists. Although Jim Crow laws, Japanese internment camps, the fate of Cheyenne in the Sand Creek massacre may not have been taken into account.

In colonial America, before colonial slavery became completely based on racial lines, thousands of African slaves served whites, alongside other whites serving a term of indentured servitude. In some cases for African slaves, a term of service meant freedom and a land grant afterward, but these were rarely awarded, and few black Africans became landowners this way. In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led a revolt against the Governor of Virginia and the system of exploitation he represented: exploitation of poorer colonists by the increasingly wealthy landowners. However, Bacon died, probably of dysentery, and the revolt lost steam.

The central cause of concern to landowners was the unity of Bacon's populist movement. It raised the question to the landowners of how to divide the population politically in ways that would keep the poorer colonists divided enough to rule. To the Governor, the most threatening, and unexpected, aspect of Bacon's rebellion was its multi-racial aspect. So from that time on, the wealthy landowners determined that only Africans would be used as slaves - and white colonists were promised whatever benefits would have gone to Africans had they continued to be indentured servants. The fuel of the racism was due to the fear of sex among whites and blacks. This relationship was specifically afraid of black, Native American, Asian, and Hispanic men with White women. The thousands of lynchings were testimony to this. This legacy is still seen in the antimiscegenation laws which were repealed only within the past few years. This change began the infamously long period of the American slave society, in which slaves were primarily used for agricultural labor, notably in the production of cotton and tobacco. Black slavery in the Northeast was less common, usually confined to involuntary domestic servitude. The social rift along color lines soon became engrained in every aspect of colonial American culture.

Slavery in the Confederate States of America was unaffected by the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, a whole two years after the beginning of the civil war. The United States Federal Government no longer had any legal power in the Confederate States, and as such, made no great sacrifice in outlawing slavery in territories which they no longer controlled. Slavery ended in the whole country with the 13th Amendment which was declared ratified on December 18, 1865. Despite this, remnants of racism continued in the United States with the existence of Jim Crow laws, educational disparities, widespread criminal acts perpetrated by local and vigilante groups, and vigorous action by trade unions and their allies to enact Minimum wages, which had the effect of pricing the typically unskilled and untrained black and immigrant laborers out of the labor market.

In the 1950's and 1960's a mass based movement of predominately African Americans capitalizing on the gains made by the New Deal engaged in a series of local movements, national lobbying and legal attacks on segregation and discrimination. These groups included the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, The Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and a variety of local groups and labor unions. This movement culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" - Martin Luther King, "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. (28 August 1963).

While the relationship between races in the United States has largely been limited to that between whites and blacks, the changing racial makeup of the American population at the beginning of the 21st century has caused many voices to call for the inclusion of other races in the equation. It is estimated that by 2050, whites in America will comprise less than 50% of the total population (Hispanics, for example will acount for 25 % of the US population). The relationship between races in the US is therefore being redefined to include Hispanics and Asian Americans, the fastest growing ethnic groups. At this writing, at least 4 states, California, Texas, Hawaii, and New Mexico (and the District of Columbia) are deemed "majority minority" states, where whites are not the majority of the population.

South Africa

See History of South Africa in the Apartheid Era.

Sri Lanka

There has been a good deal of tension over the decades between the Sinhala and Tamil. For more in depth information see Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.


The Swiss Confederation or Confederatio Helvetica is a nation composed of four subcultural groups: German-speaking (63.7%), French-speaking (12.9%), Italian-speaking (7.6%) and Romansch-speaking (0.6%). With this diversity and its history of neutrality, Switzerland has been seen as a safe refuge for those genuinely fleeing from persecution. Switzerland has seen an increase in refugees in recent years, (particularly from Africa), who have claimed asylum directly in Switzerland. In 1992, the federal refugee office registered some 7,000 black Africans requesting asylum. In the first nine months of 2002 the number was 17,000.

However, there is evidence of increased intolerance of immigrants in recent years. There have been attacks against African immigrants popularly believed to be economic immigrants rather than genuine asylum seekers. As a result of these reports, Switzerland has come in for harsh crticism in recent years from bodies such as the UN. Furthermore, the SVP or Swiss People's Party has significantly increased its share of the vote in recent years on a percieved "anti-immigrant" platform. It is best known for opposing Swiss membership in international organisations such as the EU and United Nations and for its campaigning against perceived flaws in the immigration, asylum and penal laws.

An official research report released in 2004 by the Federal Commission against Racism in Bern, Switzerland revealed both public and officials in Switzerland to exhibit a high degree of widespread racism[12]. According to this report, discrimination based on skin colour in is not exceptional, and affects immigrants decades after their immigration. Immigrants have also labelled the Swiss way of integrating dark skinned foreigners as 'silent apartheid'. They are targeted by police and intimidated by authorities, experience frequent public humiliation and hate stares, and seats in public transport are typically left empty next to a Black person. The report concludes that it would be good to alert Black people to this issue about Switzerland, as up to the release of this report, many people assumed Switzerland to be free of racism.


Until majority rule in 1980, the minority white government of Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe was then called) practised institutionalised racism similar in a few respects to the apartheid system in South Africa. White Rhodesians "lived in the best houses, owned most of the best land, enjoyed a high standard of living and controlled the executive, the legislature, the judiciary and the means of coercion." (Godwin, P. & Hancock, I., 1993. Rhodesians never Die, Baobab Books, Harare, Zimbabwe.)

The laws enforcing racial segregation, however, were not always welcomed by the local white community. They were viewed as not only being racist, but expensive and unnecessary. This was highlighted in an incident, called "The Battle of the Toilets" in 1960, involving a new theatre that would be open to all races.

Twenty years after Independance, whites in Zimbabwe remained a market dominant minority through their continued ownership of the vast majority of arable land, the most valuable resource in a country like Zimbabwe where agriculture is the leading industry. In 2000 the government, arguing that the country's landownership patters were the result of longtime failure to address the legacies of colonialism and racism in Zimbabwean society, began a controversial land reform process directed at redistributing land to the poor black majority.

Some examples of specific types of alleged racism

see Categories of Racism

Related concepts

  • Affirmative action is the practice of favoring or benefiting members of a particular race in areas such as college admissions and workplace advancement, in an attempt to create atmospheres of racial diversity and racial equality. Though lauded by many as a boon to society, giving the less privileged a chance at success, the practice is condemned as racially discriminatory by others.
  • Historical economic or social disparity is alleged to be a form of discrimination which is caused by past racism, affecting the present generation through deficits in the formal education and other kinds of preparation in the parents' generation, and, through primarily unconscious racist attitudes and actions on members of the general population. (E.g. A member of Race Y, Mary, has her opportunities adversely affected (directly and/or indirectly) by the mistreatment of her ancestors of race Y.)
  • Institutional racism or structural racial discrimination -- racial discrimination by governments, corporations, or other large organizations with the power to influence the lives of many individuals. See Affirmative Action.
  • Cultural racial discrimination occurs when the assumption of inferiority of one or more races is built into the culturally maintained image of itself held by members of one culture. (e.g. Members of group X are taught to believe that they are members of a superior race, and, consequently, members of other races are inferior.)
  • Racial discrimination is differences in treatment of people on the basis of characteristics which may be classified as racial, including skin color, cultural heritage, and religion. (e.g. Mary refuses to hire John because he is of race Y.) This is a concept not unanimously agreed upon. While this usually refers to discrimination against minority racial groups in Western societies, it can also (arguably) refer to the opposite situation, and in that case is often called reverse discrimination when it is due to affirmative action or other attempts to remedy past or current discrimination against minority racial groups. (e.g. Mary cannot get a job, despite her qualifications, because she is of the dominant race Y.) Many do not consider this racism, but simply a form of discrimination.
  • Racialism is a term often found within white separatist literature, inferring an emphasis in racial origin in social matters. Racism infers an assumption of racial superiority and a harmful intent, whereas separatists sometimes prefer the term racialism, indicating a strong interest in matters of race without a necessary inference of superiority or a desire to be harmful to others. Rather their focus is on racial segregation and white pride.
  • Racial prejudice is pre-formed personal opinions about individuals on the basis of their race. (E.g. John thinks that Mary will have bad attribute X solely because Mary is a member of race Y.)

Some examples of organizations often accused of racism

Note: The use of the word "often" means that one or more valid sources is required. Being self-described as racist counts as a source.

Related terminology

The terms racialism and racialist is sometimes used by those who think it is a different concept in which negativity or hatred is not prescribed. People who call themselves "racialists" tend to be separatists (white nationalists or sometimes black nationalists) and sometimes see a difference between themselves and racial supremacists.

Many people who study racism, such as Betty A. Dobratz and Stephanie Shanks-Meile, contend that terms such as white separatism and white nationalism are euphemisms that have been adopted by neo-Nazi and racist groups in order to make their views seem less extreme. What relationship, if any, black nationalism has to black supremacism is less understood. Why?

See also

Affirmative action, Afrophobia, Afrocentrism, anti-racism, anti-Polonism, anti-Semitism, Apartheid, Ascribed characteristics, Asian fetish, The Bell Curve, Black power, Black supremacy, Blackface, Chauvinism, Civil rights movement, Collectivism, Criminal Blackman Myth, Discrimination, Dominant minority, Environmental racism, Essentialism, Ethnic stereotype, Ethnic cleansing, Ethnocentrism, Eugenics, Eurocentrism, Genocide, Golliwogg, Hate crime, Health disparities, Homophobia, Institutional racism, Islamophobia, Jim Crow laws, Ku Klux Klan, Isaac La Peyrère, Lynching, Master race, Miscegenation, Nazism, Neo-Nazism, Nigger, Pigmentocracy, Pre-Adamite, Race, Race riot, Racialism, Racial profiling, Racial realism, Racial segregation, Task Force to Overcome Racism in Topeka, Rankism, Sexism, Skinhead, Social Darwinism, Social stereotype, Tulsa Race Riot, White Australia policy, White nationalism, White power, White pride, White separatism, White supremacy, White trash, Wog, Xenophobia, Media_and_ethnicity, Cultural_Imperialism

List of ethnic slurs


  • Elazar Barkan, The retreat of scientific racism: changing concepts of race in Britain and the United States between the world wars (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
  • Bruce Dain, A hideous monster of the mind: American race theory in the early republic (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002). (18th century US racial theory)
  • Vincent F. Rocchio, Reel Racism. Confronting Hollywood's Construction of Afro-American Culture, Westview Press 2000
  • Ann Laura Stoler, "Racial histories and their regimes of truth," Political Power and Social Theory, 11 (1997): 183-206. (historiography of race and racism)

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