Part of a series on Discrimination General forms Specific forms
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be used as an expression of derogatory racial prejudice in the 1830s from Thomas D. Rice's performances as "Jim Crow".
Since the American Civil War the term 'discrimination' generally evolved in American English usage as an understanding of prejudicial treatment of an individual based solely on their race, later generalized as membership in a certain socially undesirable group or social category. Discernment has remained in British English as a term denoting elite status in perception and insight, often attributed to success in investment finance, or anyone with admirable choice in style, often high society leaders.
Discriminatory laws such as redlining exist in many countries. In some places, controversial attempts such as racial quotas have been used to redress negative effects of discrimination.
Within sociology, 'discrimination' is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. Discrimination is the actual behavior towards members of another group. It involves excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to other groups. Moral philosophers have defined it as disadvantageous treatment or consideration. This is a comparative definition. An individual need not be actually harmed in order to be discriminated against. He or she just needs to be treated worse than others for some arbitrary reason. If someone decides to donate to help orphan children, but decides to donate less, say, to black children out of a racist attitude, he or she will be acting in a discriminatory way even if he or she actually benefits the people he discriminates against by donating some money to them.
Racial and ethnic 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, the Occupied Palestinian Territories with the apartheid separation wall and the USA.
In the United States, racial profiling of minorities by law enforcement officials has been called racial discrimination. 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.
Within the criminal justice system in some Western countries, minorities are convicted and imprisoned disproportionately when compared with whites. 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. First Nations make up about 2% of Canada's population, but account for 18% of the federal prison population as of 2000. According to the Australian government's June 2006 publication of prison statistics, indigenous peoples make up 24% of the overall prison population in Australia.
In 2004, Māori made up just 15% of the total population of New Zealand but 49.5% of prisoners. Māori were entering prison at 8 times the rate of non-Māori. A quarter of the people in England's prisons are from an ethnic minority. The Equality and Human Rights Commission found that five times more black people than white people per head of population in England and Wales are imprisoned. Experts and politicians said over-representation of black men was a result of decades of racial prejudice in the criminal justice system.
Sex, Gender and Gender Identity 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, which 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 their 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 their 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 their 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.
Another setting where there is usually gender discrimination is when one is refused to extend their 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.
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. However, there are also some psychological differences in regard to how problems are dealt with and emotional perceptions and reactions which may relate to hormones and the successful characteristics of each gender during longstanding roles in past primitive lifestyles.
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 in 1995, 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. In 2008, women accounted for 51% of all workers in the high-paying management, professional, and related occupations. They outnumbered men in such occupations as public relations managers; financial managers; and human resource managers.
The PwC research found that among FTSE 350 companies in the United Kingdom in 2002 almost 40% of senior management posts were occupied by women. When that research was repeated in 2007, the number of senior management posts held by women had fallen to 22%.
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. Nevertheless, the problem of gender discrimination does not stop at transgender individuals or with women. Men are often the victim in certain areas of employment as men begin to seek work in office and childcare settings traditionally perceived as "women's jobs". One such situation seems to be evident in a recent case concerning alleged YMCA discrimination and a Federal Court Case in Texas. The case actually involves alleged discrimination against both men and blacks in childcare, even when they pass the same strict background tests and other standards of employment. It is currently being contended in federal court, as of fall 2009, and sheds light on how a workplace dominated by a majority (women in this case) sometimes will seemingly "justify" whatever they wish to do, regardless of the law. This may be done as an effort at self-protection, to uphold traditional societal roles, or some other faulty, unethical or illegal prejudicial reasoning.
- Sex Discrimination Ordinance (1996)
- 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.
- Human Rights Act 1998 – provides more scope for redressing all forms of discriminatory imbalances
- Equal Pay Act of 1963 – (part of the Fair Labor Standards Act) – prohibits wage discrimination by employers and labor organizations based on sex
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – broadly prohibits discrimination in the workplace including hiring, firing, workforce reduction, benefits, and sexually harassing conduct
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – covers discrimination based upon pregnancy in the workplace
- Violence Against Women Act
According to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch, caste discrimination affects an estimated 250 million people worldwide. Discrimination based on caste, as perceived by UNICEF, is prevalent mainly in parts of Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Japan) and Africa. Currently, there are an estimated 160 million Dalits or Scheduled Castes (formerly known as "untouchables") in India.
Employment discrimination refers to disabling certain people to apply and receive jobs based on their race, age, gender, religion, height, weight, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. In relationship to sociology, employment discrimination usually relates to what events are happening in society at the time. For example, it would have seemed ludicrous to hire an African American male and absolutely unheard of to hire an African American woman over 50 years ago. However, in our society today, it is the absolute norm to hire any qualified person.
Many laws prohibit employment discrimination. If a person uses discriminatory hiring practices, they can be sued for hate crimes. However, some minority groups (notably LGBT people) remain unprotected by U.S. federal law from employment discrimination.
The American federal laws that protect against:
- Race, color and national origin discrimination include the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order Number 11478 among other numerous laws that protect people from race, color and national origin discrimination.
- Sex and gender discrimination include the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Equal Pay Act of 1963.
- age Discrimination include the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
- Physical and mental disability discrimination include the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
- Religious discrimination include the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Military status discrimination include the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974
Most other western nations have similar laws protecting these groups.
Sexual orientation discrimination
In 2009, ILGA published a report based on research carried out by Daniel Ottosson at Södertörn University College, Stockholm, Sweden. This research found that of the 80 countries around the world that continue to consider homosexuality illegal, five carry the death penalty for homosexual activity, and two do in some regions of the country. In the report, this is described as "State sponsored homophobia". This happens in Islamic states, or in two cases regions under Islamic authority.
On February 5, 2005 the IRIN issued a reported titled "Iraq: Male homosexuality still a taboo." The article stated, among other things that honor killings by Iraqis against a gay family member are common and given some legal protection. In August 2009 Human Rights Watch published an extensive report detailing torture of men accused of being gay in Iraq, including the blocking of men's anuses with glue and then giving the men laxatives.
Political views discrimination
Liberal and democrats are significantly overrepresented in higher education in the United States with discrimination one possible but disputed explanation.
Pro-Israel supporters also have a difficult time on college campuses. There have been many instances of harassment and violence againist who are pro-Israeli and this has often times been due to anti-zionism or anti-semitism.
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 linguicism or logocism. Anti-discriminatory and inclusive efforts to accommodate persons who speak different languages or cannot have fluency in the country's predominant or "official" language, is bilingualism such as official documents in two languages, and multiculturalism in more than two languages.
Some attempts at antidiscrimination have been criticized as reverse discrimination. In particular, minority quotas (for example, affirmative action) discriminate against members of a dominant or majority group. In its opposition to race preferences, the American Civil Rights Institute's Ward Connerly stated, "There is nothing positive, affirmative, or equal about 'affirmative action' programs that give preference to some groups based on race." There are cases, however, such as the Noack v. YMCA case in U.S. Fifth Circuit Court, which include outright anti-male gender bias in a traditionally female work environment like childcare. That former employee claims to have suffered even physical assaults, and was allegedly also told to not hire too many blacks or men.
Discrimination against people with disabilities in favor of people who are not is called ableism or disablism. Disability discrimination, which treats non-disabled individuals as the standard of ‘normal living’, results in public and private places and services, education, and social work that are built to serve 'standard' people, thereby excluding those with various disabilities.
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act mandates the provision of equality of access to both buildings and services and is paralleled by similar acts in other countries, such as the Equality Act 2010 in the UK.
Freedom of religion Religion Portal
Religious discrimination is valuing or treating a person or group differently because of what they do or do not believe. For instance, the indigenous Christian population of Balkans (known as "rayah" or "protected flock") lived under the Ottoman Kanun–i–Rayah. The word is sometimes translated as 'cattle' rather than 'flock' or 'subjects' to emphasize the inferior status of the rayah. In the Ottoman Empire, in accordance with the Muslim dhimmi system, Christians were guaranteed limited freedoms (such as the right to worship), but were treated as second-class citizens. Christians and Jews were not considered equals to Muslims: testimony against Muslims by Christians and Jews was inadmissible in courts of law. They were forbidden to carry weapons or ride atop horses, their houses could not overlook those of Muslims, and their religious practices would have to defer to those of Muslims, in addition to various other legal limitations.
Restrictions upon Jewish occupations were imposed by Christian authorities. Local rulers and church officials closed many professions to Jews, pushing them into marginal roles considered socially inferior, such as tax and rent collecting and moneylending, occupations only tolerated as a "necessary evil". The number of Jews permitted to reside in different places was limited; they were concentrated in ghettos and were not allowed to own land. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 decreed that Jews must wear distinguishing clothing.
In a 1979 consultation on the issue, the United States commission on civil rights defined religious discrimination in relation to the civil rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Whereas religious civil liberties, such as the right to hold or not to hold a religious belief, are essential for Freedom of Religion (in the United States secured by the First Amendment), religious discrimination occurs when someone is denied " the equal protection of the laws, equality of status under the law, equal treatment in the administration of justice, and equality of opportunity and access to employment, education, housing, public services and facilities, and public accommodation because of their exercise of their right to religious freedom."
The tax-exempt status of religious organizations discriminates against atheists or people who do not believe in organized religions, in much the same way that mobility allowance for people who can't walk discriminates against those who simply have bad knees but can still walk.
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. Due to a belief in the capacity to perceive pain and/or suffering shared by all animals, 'abolitionist' or 'vegan' egalitarianism maintains that the interests of every individual (regardless its species), warrant equal consideration with the interests of humans, and that not doing so is "speciesist".
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 about his book Democracy: The God That Failed, asserts that a natural social order is characterized by increased discrimination.
Discrimination, in labeling theory, takes form as mental categorisation of minorities and the use of stereotype. This theory describes difference as deviance from the norm, which results in internal devaluation and social stigma that may be seen as discrimination. It is started by describing a 'natural' social order. It is distinguished between the fundamental principle of fascism and social democracy. The Nazis in 1930's-era Germany, the pre-1990 Apartheid government of South Africa used racial discriminatory agendas for their political ends. This practice continues with some present day governments.
State discrimination vs. free market discrimination
In politics, the dominating part of the population rules. Therefore, the worst discrimination in the history has been committed by states. For example, the anti-semitic practices of the Nazi-Germany would not have happened on free markets, because they would have caused losses.
However, government officials and politicians need not care about losses as much as companies, which decreases their incentive not to discriminate. For example, around 1900 the afro-Americans started to compete of jobs that had previously been all-white jobs. Because whites had more voting power, they enacted a law that made photographs of the applicants obligatory in civil service job applications. The number of blacks in federal employment plummeted for decades.
In early 20th century South Africa mine owners preferred hiring black workers because they were cheaper. Then the whites successfully persuaded the government to enact laws that highly restricted the black' rights to work (see Apartheid).
When the "Jim Crow" racial segregation laws were enacted in the U.S., many companies disobeyed them for years, because the market automatically punishes companies that discriminate: they lose customers and get additional expenses. It took 15 years for the government to break down the resistance of the companies.
Markets punish the discriminator
The Nobel prize winning economist Gary Becker showed in his book The Economics of Discrimination (University of Chicago Press, 1957) how the markets automatically punish the companies that discriminate.
The profitability of the company that discriminates is decreased, and the loss is "directly proportional to how much the employer's decision was based on prejudice, rather than on merit." Indeed, choosing a worker with lower performance (in comparison to salary) causes losses proportional to the difference in performance. Similarly, the customers who discriminate against certain kinds of workers in favor of less effective have to pay more for their services, in the average.
If a company discriminates, it typically losses profitability and market share to the companies that do not discriminate, unless the state limits free competition protecting the discriminators.
Stereotypes and scapegoats
Stereotyping is a type of discrimination. When a person is stereotyping they are thinking in terms of inflexible categories, and is linked to the psychological mechanism called displacement. Displacement is when one feels feelings of hostility or anger toward objects that are not the origin of those feelings. Many people blame scapegoats for problems that are not their fault. This is common when two deprived ethnic groups compete with one another for economic rewards. This is normally directed against groups that are relatively powerless, because they make an easy target. It frequently involves projection, which is the unconscious attribution to the others of ones own desires or characteristics.
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- Legal definitions
- Employment Discrimination Laws in the United States
- Discrimination Laws in Europe
- Behavioral Biology and Racism
- Anti-Racism and Hate
- http://www.agediscrimination.info – Resource on international and UK age discrimination law, news, cases and statistics
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