Racism vs Discrimination: Difference and Comparison

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.


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Later, humans started to develop, and it was bound 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 two such tools for creating differences in society.

Key Takeaways

  1. Racism is the belief that one race is superior to another, while discrimination is mistreating someone based on race, gender, religion, etc.
  2. Racism is a form of prejudice, while discrimination is a form of unfair treatment.
  3. Racism can lead to discrimination, but discrimination can also occur without racism.

Racism vs Discrimination

Racism refers to the prejudice to members of certain races, which results in the belief that one racial group is more superior than the other. It is a negative belief and treatment of a racial category that can lead to violence. Discrimination is the biased treatment of people on the basis of ethnicity, race, sex, disability or age.

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 in America, and white people considered 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 and violence in 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

Parameters of ComparisonRacismDiscrimination
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 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 was 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. The concept of positive discrimination has been brought up by the government and the institutions.

In the case of India, discrimination 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 socioeconomic development.


Main Differences Between Racism and Discrimination

  1. Racism is an art of discrimination, while discrimination is an art of segregation.
  2. Racism is based on phenotype, while Discrimination is based on gender, caste, sex, and place of birth.
  3. Racism leads to discrimination, while racism leads to discrimination.
  4. Racism is an ideology that race plays an important role in determining human abilities, while Discrimination is a way of making unjustified differences in society.
  5. Racism mainly started in the 17th century, while Discrimination started when human civilisation came into existence.
  6. Racism creates a disturbance in society, while sometimes Discrimination leads to development in society.
Difference Between Racism and Discrimination
  1. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.93.2.243
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2967253

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