What is Racism?

Definitions of racism

  1. The belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others.
  2. Offensive or aggressive behaviour to members of another race stemming from such a belief.
  3. A policy or system of government based on it.

The Macquarie Concise Dictionary 1996

Racism may be direct or indirect, individual or institutional:

Direct racial discrimination happens when someone is treated less fairly than someone else in a similar situation, because of their race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. For example, if a school will not hire a staff member just because of his or her race or ethnicity.

Indirect racial discrimination can happen when a policy or rule treats everyone in the same way, but has an unfair effect on more people of a particular race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin than others. For example, a rule that says that students may not wear anything on their heads could result in discrimination against students whose religions require headwear.

Racist behaviour may include:

  • Physical assault and harassment
  • Verbal abuse, threats, derogatory language, ridicule, stereotyped comments
  • Racist propaganda eg symbols, signs, graffiti
  • Incitement of others to behave in a racist manner
  • Refusal to cooperate with other people because of their colour, ethnicity, religion or language
  • Institutional racism which often unintentionally disadvantages or marginalises less dominate ethnic and cultural groups eg biased policies, rules or curriculum.

Adapted from:

Theme: Racism in Australia