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Discrimination toward or against a person of a certain group is the treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit. It can be behavior promoting a certain group (e.g. affirmative action), or it can be negative behavior directed against a certain group (e.g. redlining).


Race discrimination

Racial discrimination differentiates between individuals on the basis of real and perceived racial differences, and has been official government policy in several countries, such as South Africa in the apartheid era, and the USA.

child at a segregated drinking fountain on a courthouse lawn, North Carolina, 1938.]]

In the United States, racial profiling of minorities by law enforcement officials has been called racial discrimination.[1] As early as 1865, the Civil Rights Act provided a remedy for intentional race discrimination in employment by private employers and state and local public employers. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 applies to public employment or employment involving state action prohibiting deprivation of rights secured by the federal constitution or federal laws through action under color of law. Title VII is the principal federal statute with regard to employment discrimination prohibiting unlawful employment discrimination by public and private employers, labor organizations, training programs and employment agencies based on race or color, religion, gender, and national origin.

Title VII also prohibits retaliation against any person for opposing any practice forbidden by statute, or for making a charge, testifying, assisting, or participating in a proceeding under the statute. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 expanded the damages available in Title VII cases and granted Title VII plaintiffs the right to a jury trial. Title VII also provides that race and color discrimination against every race and color is prohibited.

In the UK the inquiry following the murder of Stephen Lawrence accused the police of institutional racism.

  • Weaver v NATFHE (now part of the UCU) Race/sex discrimination case. An Industrial (Employment) Tribunal in the UK in 1987 decided that a trade union was justified in not assisting a Black woman member, complaining of racist/sexist harassment, regardless of the merits of the case, because the accused male would lose his job. The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the decision, which still stands today as the definitive legal precedent in this field. Also known as the Bournville College Racial Harassment issue.
  • Gingerism is a form of discrimination which is sometimes considered to be racism.

Within the criminal justice system in some Western countries, minorities are convicted and imprisoned disproportionately when compared with whites.[2][3] In 1998, nearly one out of three black men between the ages of 20-29 were in prison or jail, on probation or parole on any given day in the United States.[4] First Nations make up about 2% of Canada's population, but account for 18% of the federal prison population as of 2000.[5] According to the Australian government's June 2006 publication of prison statistics, indigenous peoples make up 24% of the overall prison population in Australia. [6] ("Indigenous" meaning those identifying themselves as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin[7]) In 2004, Maori made up just 15% of the total population of New Zealand but 49.5% of prisoners. Maori were entering prison at 8 times the rate of non-Maori.[8]

Age discrimination

Age discrimination is or group on the grounds of age. Although theoretically the word can refer to the discrimination against any age group, age discrimination usually comes in one of three forms: discrimination against youth (also called adultism), discrimination against those 40 years old or older [2], and discrimination against elderly people.

In the United States, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employment discrimination nationwide based on age with respect to employees 40 years of age or older. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act also addresses the difficulty older workers face in obtaining new employment after being displaced from their jobs, arbitrary age limits.

In many countries, companies more or less openly refuse to hire people above a certain age despite the increasing lifespans and average age of the population. The reasons for this range from vague feelings younger people are more "dynamic" and create a positive image for the company, to more concrete concerns about regulations granting older employees higher salaries or other benefits without these expenses being fully justified by an older employees' greater experience.

Some people consider that teenagers and youth (around 15–25 years old) are victims of adultism, age discrimination framed as a paternalistic form of protection. In seeking social justice, they feel that it is necessary to remove the use of a false moral agenda in order to achieve agency and empowerment.

This perspective is based on the grounds that youth should be treated more respectfully by adults and not as second-class citizens. Some suggest that social stratification in age groups causes outsiders to incorrectly stereotype and generalize the group, for instance that all adolescents are equally immature, violent or rebellious, listen to rock tunes, and do drugs. Some have organized groups against age discrimination.

Ageism is the causal effect of a continuum of fears related to age.[citation needed] This continuum includes:

Related terms include:

  • Adultism: Also called adultarchy, adult privilege, and adultcentrism/adultocentrism, this is the wielding of authority over young people and the preference of adults before children and youth.
  • Jeunism: Also called "youthism" is the holding of beliefs or actions taken that preference 'younger' people before adults.

Gender discrimination

Though gender discrimination and sexism refers to beliefs and attitudes in relation to the gender of a person, such beliefs and attitudes are of a social nature and do not, normally, carry any legal consequences. Sex discrimination, on the other hand, may have legal consequences.

Though what constitutes sex discrimination varies between countries, the essence is that it is an adverse action taken by one person against another person that would not have occurred had the person been of another sex. Discrimination of that nature in certain enumerated circumstances is illegal in many countries.

Currently, discrimination based on sex is defined as adverse action against another person, that would not have occurred had the person been of another sex. This is considered a form of prejudice and is illegal in certain enumerated circumstances in most countries.

Sexual discrimination can arise in different contexts. For instance an employee may be discriminated against by being asked discriminatory questions during a job interview, or because an employer did not hire, promote or wrongfully terminated an employee based on his or her gender, or employers pay unequally based on gender.

In an educational setting there could be claims that a student was excluded from an educational institution, program, opportunity, loan, student group, or scholarship due to his or her gender. In the housing setting there could be claims that a person was refused negotiations on seeking a house, contracting/leasing a house or getting a loan based on his or her gender. Another setting where there have been claims of gender discrimination is banking; for example if one is refused credit or is offered unequal loan terms based on one’s gender.[9]

Another setting where there is usually gender discrimination is when one is refused to extend his or her credit, refused approval of credit/loan process, and if there is a burden of unequal loan terms based on one’s gender.

Socially, sexual differences have been used to justify different roles for men and women, in some cases giving rise to claims of primary and secondary roles.[10]

While there are alleged non-physical differences between men and women, major reviews of the academic literature on gender difference find only a tiny minority of characteristics where there are consistent psychological differences between men and women, and these relate directly to experiences grounded in biological difference.[11]

Unfair discrimination usually follows the gender stereotyping held by a society.

The United Nations had concluded that women often experience a "glass ceiling" and that there are no societies in which women enjoy the same opportunities as men. The term "glass ceiling" is used to describe a perceived barrier to advancement in employment based on discrimination, especially sex discrimination.

In the United States, the Glass Ceiling Commission, a government-funded group, stated: "Over half of all Master’s degrees are now awarded to women, yet 95% of senior-level managers, of the top Fortune 1000 industrial and 500 service companies are men. Of them, 97% are white." In its report, it recommended affirmative action, which is the consideration of an employee's gender and race in hiring and promotion decisions, as a means to end this form of discrimination.[12]

Transgender individuals, both male to female and female to male, often experience problems which often lead to dismissals, underachievement, difficulty in finding a job, social isolation, and, occasionally, violent attacks against them.


Template:Country data Hong Kong Hong Kong
  • Sex Discrimination Ordinance (1996)
United Kingdom
  • Equal Pay Act 1970 - provides for equal pay for comparable work
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975 - makes discrimination against women or men, including discrimination on the grounds of marital status, illegal in the workplace except when it pertains to a "white man" and a "black woman."
  • Human Rights Act 1998 - provides more scope for redressing all forms of discriminatory imbalances
United States

Caste discrimination

According to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch, caste discrimination affects an estimated 250 million people worldwide.[14][15][16]

Employment discrimination

The American federal laws that protect against:

Most other western nations have similar laws protecting these groups.

Discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender variant people

See: Heterosexism, Heteronormativity, and Homophobia

Language discrimination

Diversity of language is protected and respected by most nations who value cultural diversity. However, people are sometimes subjected to different treatment because their preferred language is associated with a particular group, class or category. Commonly, the preferred language is just another attribute of separate ethnic groups. Discrimination exists if there is prejudicial treatment against a person or a group of people who speak a particular language or dialect. Language discrimination is suggested to be labeled Linguacism or logocism.

Reverse discrimination and affirmative action

Reverse discrimination is a term sometimes used to describe discrimination in favor of a group typically seen as discriminated against. It is almost always used in the context of opposing affirmative action. Some opponents dislike the term; Carl Cohen argues that discrimination is discrimination and "reverse" is thus a misnomer, while Ward Connerly's American Civil Rights Movement uses terms like "race preference," "gender preference," or "preferential treatment" to highlight its position that such policies violate existing civil rights law, such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Disability discrimination

People with disabilities face discrimination in all levels of society. The attitude that disabled individuals are inferior to non-disabled individuals is called "ableism".

Chronic pain is a debilitating condition which is often neglected in modern society. According to the American Chiropractic Association, over 50% of all working US citizens complain of back pain each year. An estimated 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their life. Many times pain can become chronic and debilitating.

Ergonomic seating and work environments are not only be a reasonable accommodation for those who suffer, they are also a preventative measure to counteract the soaring cost of medical treatment for pain conditions. Ergonomic seating in all public institutions would be a positive step to providing access to public services for all those who need it.

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act provides guidelines for providing wheelchair access for public institutions, but ergonomic devices for those who suffer from pain are something that has yet to be implemented. This is just one of many accessibility issues still faced by disabled individuals.

Disabled people may also face discrimination by employers. They may find problems with securing employment as their disability can be seen as a risk to the company, and once in employment they may find they are overlooked for promotion opportunities. Similarly, if an employee becomes disabled while employed they may also find themselves being managed out the company by HR departments.

Unsympathetic employers can make life very difficult for such employees and can often make their health problems worse. Disability discrimination laws mean that in theory the employee has a method of redress in such instances.

Almost every person with a syndrome is discriminated against. They may not be able to join organizations, and they may even be neglected by schools and other public utilities.



Social theories such as Egalitarianism claim that social equality should prevail. In some societies, including most developed countries, each individual's civil rights include the right to be free from government sponsored social discrimination.[17] Taking into account the capacity to perceive pain and/or suffering that all animals have, 'abolitionist' or 'vegan' egalitarianism maintains that every individual, regardless their species, should have at least the basic right not to be an object.[citation needed] See also speciesism.

Conservative and Anarcho-Capitalist

In contrast, conservative writer and law professor Matthias Storme has claimed that the freedom of discrimination in human societies is a fundamental human right, or more precisely, the basis of all fundamental freedoms and therefore the most fundamental freedom. Author Hans-Hermann Hoppe, in an essay[18] about his book Democracy: The God That Failed, asserts that a natural social order is characterized by increased discrimination.

Labelling theory

Discrimination can sometimes be associated to the labeling theory, i.e. the categorisation of minorities and the use of stereotype that provide a justification of people receiving a different treatment than others.

See also


  1. ^ Callahan, Gene; Anderson, William (2001 August-September). "The Roots of Racial Profiling". Reason Online (Reason Foundation). 
  2. ^ How is the Criminal Justice System Racist?
  3. ^ Blacks Hardest Hit by Incarceration Policy. Human Rights Watch. June 5, 2008.
  4. ^ Race and the Criminal Justice System
  5. ^ Trevethan, Shelley; Rastin, Christopher J. (June 2004). "A Profile of Visible Minority Offenders in the Federal Canadian Correctional System". Research Branch, Correctional Service of Canada. 
  6. ^ "Prisoners in Australia, 2006". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006-12-14. Retrieved on 2007-05-04. 
  7. ^ "Prisoners in Australia, 2006: Explanatory Notes". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006-12-14. Retrieved on 2007-05-04. 
  8. ^ New Zealand's Prison Population
  9. ^ Wilson, F. (2003) Organizational Behaviour and Gender (2nd Edition), Aldershot: Ashgate.
  10. ^ Ridley-Duff, R. J. (2008) "Gendering, Courtship and Pay Equity: Developing Attraction Theory to Understand Work-Life Balance and Entrepreneurial Behaviour", paper to the 31st ISBE Conference, 5th-7th November, Belfast
  11. ^ Hyde, J. S. (2005) “The Gender Similarities Hypothesis”, American Psychologist, 60(6): 581 592.
  12. ^ "A Solid Investment: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital". 1995-11. Retrieved on 2008-05-23. 
  13. ^ "Pregnancy Discrimination Act". Retrieved on 2008-05-14. 
  14. ^ Discrimination, UNICEF
  15. ^ Global Caste Discrimination
  16. ^ Caste - The Facts
  17. ^ "Civil rights". Retrieved on 2006. bbb;
  18. ^ [1]Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2001). "Democracy: The God That Failed". Retrieved on 2006. 

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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From the Latin "discriminare" meaning to "distinguish between"




discrimination (plural discriminations)

  1. Unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice. Treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality or prejudice: racial discrimination; discrimination against foreigners.
  2. Neutral discernment.
  3. The act of discriminating, distinguishing, or noting/perceiving differences which exist.
  4. The state of being discriminated against, distinguished from, or set apart.
  5. The arbitrary imposition of unequal tariffs for substantially the same service.
  6. The quality of being discriminating; acute discernment; as to show great discrimination in the choice of means.
  7. That which discriminates; mark of distinction.

Derived terms


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|200px|This beach in South Africa is only for White people. Photo taken in 1989.]] Discrimination is literally when something or someone is distinguished from someone or something. Discrimination against is when a person is treated unfairly or badly because of something about that person. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all persons must be protected any kind of discriminations and even its inciting.

A person might be discriminated against because of their race,sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, the way they look, a past criminal record, the person's lifestyle, their choice of clothing, their age or their disabilities whether they are a member of or fit in with a social clique (group), social class or caste, and many other reasons.

Discrimination against can take many forms. It can include being fired from a job, not being able to be hired for a job, being paid less money than others at the same job, being refused a home or apartment, teasing, harassment, or simply being treated differently than other people. A law was introduced called Equal Opportunities, which promises not to employ someone because of their race, age, sex or religion, and lacking reasonable care for persons with disabilities or accessibility. Two people in the same position must be paid the same wage if they have identical responsibilities.

In some countries, discrimination against somebody on the basis of race, sex, or religion is illegal for jobs or housing. Even in those countries where discrimination against somebody unlawful, it still takes place for other reasons not covered by the law. In some other countries, discrimination against somebody is legal or even official government policy. This especially takes place in countries in which there is an official religion, and people of other religions are discriminated against. Discrimination is also widespread in countries which have a culture in which castes or social classes are widely recognized.

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