Difference Between Racism and Discrimination

When human civilization came into existence, all were living together. There was peace and harmony among the society. All were interdependent with almost any animosity. Later, humans started to develop, and it bounded to have some negative impact on society. Due to mental construct, it led to the development of the feeling of superiority and inferiority. Later it has created differences among the people. Discrimination and Racism are the two such tools of creating differences among society.

Racism vs Discrimination

The main difference between Racism and Discrimination is that Racism is a negative form of excluding people from certain rights. While Discrimination happens in both negative and positive ways. Racism is a form of discrimination. While Discrimination is a larger term. Racism always led to violence in society. While Discrimination not always led to violence in society but sometimes it helps in the inclusive development of the society.

Racism vs Discrimination

Racism is a belief that race plays an important role in determining the capabilities of humans. This belief was started in the 17th century when European expansion began. An ideology of racial supremacy began like in America, white people consider themselves superior to black people. It is a way of discrimination that led to the exclusion of certain races to access their rights. Which eventually led to disharmony, violence among the society.

Discrimination is related to prejudice. Like considering someone is different from others. It is the unjustified or prejudiced differences between people based on groups, class, caste, or other categories. But it doesn’t mean that every time it has negative connotations. It can happen in many forms like in many companies; the higher posts are not available for women.

Comparison Table Between Racism and Discrimination

Parameters of Comparison Racism Discrimination
Definition Racism is a belief that race plays an important role in determining the capabilities of humans.Discrimination is the way of doing unjustified differentiation between people.
Based on It is based on phenotype.It is based on prejudice.
Beginning It is started with the expansion of the European empire.It is as old as human civilisation.
TypesIt may be overtly or covertly.It may be positive or negative.
NatureIt may lead to disturbance in society. Example; Civil war in the USAIt may sometimes lead to development in society. Example; improvement in socio-economic conditions of Dalits and women in India.

What is Racism?

In the 17th century, with the European expansion to new parts of the world. We see a rise in the ideology of racial discrimination. The concept of Social Darwinism arose on the line of Darwin‘s theory.

Racism is a system of differentiation. It loads with both prejudice and discrimination based on social perceptions of observable biological differences between people. Racism is a belief that race plays an important role in determining the capabilities of humans.

There can be two types of racism in systems of social stratification. One is the Overt and, the second is Covert.
Overt is usually fed directly into a stratification system through its effect on social status. For example, members associated with a particular race have a slave status. Covert racism is practised in more contemporary societies. It is socially hidden and less easily detectable. Variables affecting covert Racism are income, educational opportunities, and housing.

Robert K Merton and Gunnar Myrdal advocated that every coloured American has been following institutionally prescribed means, to pursue culturally specified goals but, they are still facing inequalities. As per John Rex and Paul Hirst
Race as a product of capitalism, where the slave trade brought down the costs.

What is Discrimination?

Discrimination is the way of doing unjustified differentiation between people based on groups, class, caste, or other categories.

It is a worldwide phenomenon. In almost every country, there is certain discriminatory customs, laws, and so on exist. But discrimination involves both positive and negative senses. In certain countries, there is a system of reservation or preferences for certain classes.
As they were historically part of social exclusion, so to bring them into the mainstream. Concept of positive discrimination has been brought by the government and the institutions.

In the case of India, discrimination has started during the Vedic period which, is still ongoing. That was the beginning of the caste system and prescribing the caste status like higher caste or lower caste based on birth.

From then to now, the lower caste has been facing discrimination. Along with lower caste, women have also faced discrimination. So for their upliftment, the government brought a positive form of discrimination like providing reservations to them in jobs, education, etc., and started many welfare schemes for their social-economic development.

Main Differences Between Racism and Discrimination

  1. Racism is an art of discrimination, while discrimination is an art of segregation.
  2. Racism based on phenotype, while Discrimination is based on gender, caste, sex, and place of the birth.
  3. Racism leads to discrimination, while racism leads to discrimination.
  4. Racism is an ideology that race plays an important role in determining the human abilities, while Discrimination is way of doing unjustified differences among the society.
  5. Racism is mainly started in 17th century, while Discrimination has started when the human civilisation came into the existence.
  6. Racism creates disturbance in the society, while sometimes Discrimination leads to the development in the society.


History tells us that both racism and negative forms of discrimination created disturbances in society. For example, the Apartheid system in South Africa led to strong reactions against the Britishers. In the USA, also racism led to the civil war and, many innocent people died in that war. With the development of modern society and the formation of democratic government in many countries. There is a decline in such incidents. International organizations and respective countries’ governments have taken many steps to eliminate these menace from society. Like,
abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude through the thirteen amendments. The passing of the Civil Rights Act, 1964 prohibited discrimination in public employment. Also, in India inclusion of article 17 in the Indian constitution to abolish the practice of untouchability (a form of discrimination based on caste)
it’s time to make a better world, where everyone will enjoy life without any unjustified exclusion.


  1. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.93.2.243
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2967253

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