Difference Between Discrimination and Racism

Discrimination vs Racism

Racism and discrimination are two concepts that are similar to each other and perhaps the most denounced concepts the world over. The feeling that my race is better or superior to the other person makes people belonging to a particular race or even religion behave arrogantly, or in a way that can at best be described as discriminatory. Thus, racism is also discrimination, better referred to as racial discrimination. There are many who find it difficult to differentiate between racism and discrimination though it is clear that racism is a category of discrimination. Let us take a closer look at the two concepts.


Discrimination is a broad, generic term that we all are aware of. Right from our childhood, we learn to discriminate between things based upon our preferences and according to how things are perceived and approved by our elders and peers. Treatment of people based upon their gender, race, community, color of skin, facial features, height, or even their voice is referred as discrimination. For example, stereotyping all people of Hispanic origin and having a biased attitude towards them is a classic example of discrimination based on racial affinities. The word discrimination was mostly used in American Civil war for the practice of prejudicial treatment of blacks by whites.

However, discrimination is not confined to color of skin as gender inequality has also given rise to gender discrimination whereby women are treated in a prejudicial manner by men in nearly all cultures of the world. Women get assaulted and even raped by men; they receive lesser salaries and facilities in work places, and even do not rise to top positions in some companies. This is also discrimination.


The belief that one’s own culture and race is far superior to others, and treating members of other races as inferior is called racism. The most famous form of racism the world ever saw resulted in the holocaust or killings of hundreds of thousands of Jews by Nazis during the Second World War in Germany. If one looks up dictionary, it defines racism as a belief that the abilities and characteristics of other races are inferior to one’s own. This belief leads to changes in behavior and attitude towards members of other groups and minorities. People begin to discriminate against other people belonging to different communities, and sometimes this behavior even gets state patronage.

A classic example of racism with slight variation is casteism. People belonging to higher castes treat people belonging to lower castes (untouchables) in an inhumane manner.


What is the difference between Discrimination and Racism?

• Discrimination is a practice of preferential or prejudicial treatment of people based upon ostensible differences between people such as gender, age, color of skin, racial affinities and many more.

• Racism is a sub category of discrimination that is a practice of prejudicial treatment of people of other races, groups, communities etc because of feelings of superiority of one’s own race and culture.

• Racism is a denounced concept and more popular than discrimination and has even led to conflicts and wars between people of different races.


  • Charles Nuttall

    The Holocaust was the result of religious discrimination, not racism. Religion has probably inspired more wars than racism.

    • Linn Kamst

      Not quite. Many Jews who were not practising Judaism were killed simply for being Jewish. Therefore one could argue that Nazis discriminated against ethnicity rather than religion. It is well-documented that the Nazis backed up their actions with theories about superior and inferior races. They even went as far as to try and scientifically proof the superiority of their own ‘race’. A further example is their persecution of Romani and Sinti people.

  • freeek_monkey

    I disagree with this article on only one fundamental point: Racism is a type of prejudice and represents internal beliefs and ideals. Where as discrimination is action taken based on those beliefs. Though closely related even to the point of suggesting a causal relationship between these prejudice and discrimination. To suggest that racism (prejudice) is a type discrimination, suggest that prejudice can only exist in majority groups and ignores prejudice ideals within minority groups.