Racism: meaning, other related words, types


The feeling of being better than another being flowed through the veins of humans. As long as humans are still around on earth it will be difficult to eradicate racism.

Although it can be reduced through a conceived effort of everyone but will be almost impossible to eradicate.

When we talk about racism we are talking about a type of discrimination. It occurs when a person or group of people feels hatred towards others for having different characteristics or qualities, such as skin color, language, or place of birth.

One of the most common causes of racist attitude can be found in the fear of what is different or of people who come from other countries, due to ignorance or lack of information in this regard.

Racism and racial discrimination are two issues in which it is very difficult to already agree on the terms and each choice can have political and legal consequences.

First, it must be said that most cases of racial discrimination have no ideological motivations, but are the expression of ignorance, widespread fears, prejudices, and, in general, a lack of empathy. 

Nonetheless, the first step in the fight against racial discrimination is to admit that it exists on a structural, institutional, and individual level. It is a question of recognizing the sufferings suffered by the victims of such acts.

The prevention and awareness work at establishing, in everyday life, the necessary conditions to avoid the occurrence of episodes of racial discrimination.  

It is necessary to equip oneself with tools that make it possible to perceive racial discrimination and to combat it constantly.


The term racism designates an ideology that, based on a subdivision of human beings into supposedly natural groups (the so-called “races”) based on ethnic, national, or religious affiliation, justifies the supremacy of one over the other. 

People are not judged and treated as individuals, but as belonging to pseudo-natural groups with collective characteristics deemed immutable.

The social construct of “race” is not based only on external characteristics, but also on presumed cultural, religious, or inherent peculiarities of origin. 

For example, differences in socioeconomic status or educational level are “explained” as biologically given by ethnic, cultural, or religious affiliation. 

Contrary to what happens in the Anglo-Saxon world, in continental Europe the concept of “race” is stigmatized as the founding construct of racism and mostly used in quotation marks. 

However, the term is widespread in international conventions and is therefore also used to define a characteristic based on which discrimination is prohibited.

Racial discrimination

The expression racial discrimination defines any action or practice which without any justification disadvantages certain persons, humiliates them, threatens them, or endangers their life and/or physical integrity due to their physiognomic, ethnic, cultural, and/or religion. 

Unlike racism, racial discrimination does not necessarily have an ideological foundation. It can be intentional, but also, and not infrequently, involuntary (think of indirect discrimination or structural discrimination).

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The term attitude defines an opinion, opinion, or inner relationship to a topic or situation. This definition also includes, in particular, positive, negative, or stereotypical opinions. 

If expressed in private, personal opinions are protected by freedom of expression and are not legally punishable. 

Racist attitudes do not necessarily result in racist acts and do not necessarily have an ideological foundation. 

However, they can contribute to a climate in which racist claims and discriminatory acts are more easily tolerated or approved, even if they remain outside the practice of the majority of the population.

Direct discrimination

It is in the presence of direct discrimination when a person, for impermissible reasons, is disadvantaged compared to another who is in a comparable situation. 

Direct discrimination must be distinguished from unequal treatment due to legitimate criteria or reasons.

Indirect discrimination

On the other hand, there is indirect discrimination when, despite their apparent neutrality, legal, political or practical bases result in an unlawful difference in treatment.

Multiple discrimination

It is in the presence of multiple discrimination when a person is discriminated against at the same time due to stigmatized features (p. Eg. Because of facial characteristics or religious affiliation and sex, social class, disability, or another feature).

In the case of intersectional discrimination, on the other hand, different forms of exclusion interact in such a way as to bring out one in particular. For example, racist behavior towards a woman can manifest itself in the form of sexism or, conversely, a sexist act may be motivated by racist arguments.


Xenophobia is an attitude based on prejudices and stereotypes that associates negative feelings with everything that is considered foreign. 

From a socio-psychological point of view, a negative image of “foreigners” produces a sense of superiority. 

The construction of images of alleged “foreigners” or “others” does not have anthropological reasons, but socio-cultural ones. 

In other words, it is not given by nature and can therefore be changed. The use of the term “xenophobia” conceals risks, as it explains the processes of stigmatization in psychological and biological terms (“-phobia”), thus suggesting that violence and exclusion are given by nature. 

However, the term is useful to define the confused and not necessarily the ideological attitude of those who reject everything that is “foreign” on principle, it fears and hopes for a discriminatory and restrictive immigration policy. The concept is also used because it is very widespread in international conventions and documents (often in combination with “racism”).

Anti-Muslim hostility

The term anti-Muslim hostility designates an attitude of rejection towards people who define themselves as Muslims or are perceived as such. 

In anti-Muslim hostility, elements of rejection can converge towards people originating from certain (Islamic) countries, from societies considered patriarchal or misogynistic, or from the fundamentalist practice of the faith. 

The belief that all Muslims want to introduce Sharia law, do not respect human rights, and sympathize with terrorists also falls within the view of the anti-Muslims. 

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The term “anti-Muslim hostility” is preferred to the term “Islamophobia”, as state measures against discrimination against Muslims are intended to protect individuals and groups of individuals, not a religion. 

The use of the term “Islamophobia” conceals risks.

Racism against blacks

The racism against blacks. It refers specifically to the color of the skin and physiognomic characteristics. From the external appearance (phenotype) conclusions are drawn on the interiority (genotype), with the attribution of negative personal or behavioral characteristics. 

Racism against blacks originates from the racist ideology set up in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to justify colonial power systems and slavery. 

Contrary to the characteristics to which racist attitudes and behaviors based on the (alleged) religion or culture of other people are referred, the characteristics that trigger racism against blacks are visible and immutable. 

Only external characteristics or the color of the skin are decisive. It doesn’t matter if a person has been here for generations or has just arrived if they are well-integrated or not. 

This form of racism cannot, therefore, be fought with integration measures, but only with measures for the elimination of discriminatory behaviors and attitudes.

Anti-Semitism / Anti-Jewish Hostility

The term anti-Jewish hostility designates an attitude of rejection towards people who define themselves as Jews or are perceived as such. 

The term anti-Semitism is used today as a hyperonym and in part also as a synonym for all anti-Jewish attitudes. An anti-Semitism is a particular form of racism in which a religious affiliation (the object of anti-Jewish hostility) is matched with an ethnic affiliation (the object of anti-Semitism, even if the term “Semitic” is originally a linguistic construct).

Anti-Semitism includes racist offenses (hate crimes or hate crimes), such as attacks on the physical integrity or property of Jews and Jewish institutions, but also verbal or written statements (hate speech). 

Hostile beliefs, prejudices, or stereotypes that are clearly or vaguely recognizable in culture, society, or individual acts aimed at putting one’s group before that of Jews or denigrating or disadvantaging Jews and their institutions can also be anti-Semites.

Measures must therefore be taken in all social spheres and at all institutional levels – federal, cantonal and municipal – and above all at the individual level.

State measures against discrimination against Jews or perceived Jews are intended to protect individuals and groups of individuals, not a religion.


Anti-Gypsyism is prejudice against gypsies is a concept coined in analogy to anti-Semitism and in use since the 1980s to designate the hostile and stereotyped attitude towards people and groups of people perceived as “gypsies” regardless of whether they lead a nomadic life or not. 

Throughout history, anti-Gypsyism has manifested itself in the form of economic, social, or state discrimination, political persecution, expulsions, internment, forced sterilization, and genocide organized by the state apparatus. 

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The term is not undisputed, as it contains the designation “gypsy”, conceived by many as a racist, and therefore spreads its negative content even if it is used about hostility towards the Yenish, Sinti, and Roma.

Right-wing extremist

The ‘ right-wing extremism is based on the belief that human beings are not all equal and on an ideology of exclusion which can go hand in hand with a high degree of acceptance of violence. 

All definitions of right-wing extremism agree in identifying its constituent components in racism and xenophobia. 

Right-wing extremists believe that social inequalities are due to racial or ethnic factors and demand ethnic homogeneity. 

Fundamental rights and human rights are not regarded as principles that apply everywhere for all human beings. The pluralism of values ​​of liberal democracy and the “multiculturalism” of globalized society is rejected and fought.

Types of racism

There are several types of racism for which people can feel discriminated against or be victims of inequalities:

  • Aversive racism. It is a subtle type of racism because it is generally employed by people who are openly against racism and racist behavior. Aversive racism seeks equal rights and freedom for each group to live its own culture openly. Instead, racist attitudes are produced by distance from the other person, lack of empathy or showing coldness .
  • Ethnocentric racism. This type of racism is based on the cultural superiority of the group itself, which is why it assumes that other different groups pose a cultural threat. In this type of racism there is no right to equality and it is believed that people who are of a different race than their own must submit to the predominant group. The rejection of customs, beliefs, behaviors, religions or languages of other ethnic groups are recurring attitudes in this type of racism.
  • Symbolic racism. Symbolic racism advocates the right to be equal, but with nuances: the right to be equal exists, but for specific areas or certain situations. An example that explains symbolic racism is the freedom that each group has to live as they want, but in limited areas for that group. These attitudes cause a cultural segregation between the different groups , which in turn produces a distancing between their members.
  • Biological racism. It is the least tolerant type of racism. He understands that one race is biologically superior to the others, that they threaten to degenerate the race that is considered main. Biological racism does not believe that members of other races should have any rights, it thinks that they should be totally excluded and even advocates physical segregation . An example of this type of racism was carried out by the Nazi regime in the 30s and 40s: they considered the Aryan race as a pure and superior race.

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