What are Racial Discrimination Laws?

Felicia Dye

Racial discrimination laws are regulations that prevent people from being treated unfairly because of their race. These laws may pertain to utilizing public transportation, financing, or access to public resources. Such laws are commonly needed in societies where racism has been identified as a problem. While protection may be extended to members of the racial majority, it is most often minorities who benefit the most from this type of regulation.

Laws help protect people from racial discrimination.
Laws help protect people from racial discrimination.

Racial discrimination laws tend to be based on the ideas that all people are created equal and should be treated equally. The prevalence of racism, however, highlighted a need for anti-discrimination laws, which act as mandates requiring that people be treated fairly. It is commonly held that racial discrimination is not only problematic for the individuals that directly experience it, but that society in general can suffer when racism is allowed to thrive in a public manner.

Racial discrimination law may exist at various levels of government.
Racial discrimination law may exist at various levels of government.

To prevent the suffering of individuals, racial groups, and societies, racial discrimination laws now exist as part of the legislative codes in many countries. Prior to the existence of these regulations, minorities were commonly treated unfairly when doing things such as seeking employment, trying to obtain housing, and enrolling in schools. It has been necessary to not only implement racial discrimination laws that allow people access to items such as public funds or decent jobs, but it has also been necessary to have laws that dictate how people are treated in relationships that have already been established. For example, a person may be hired but without racial discrimination laws to protect him, he may be unfairly passed over for promotions.

In most instances, minorities receive the greatest benefit from racial discrimination laws. This does not mean, however, that members of a racial majority are less entitled to protection. If, for example, a prominent African-American corporation refuses to hire an individual solely because he is white, the aggrieved individual may be able to seek justice just as an African-American could if he had been subjected to such discrimination. The specifics of racial discrimination law and who it applies to can vary from one country to another.

Racial discrimination law may exist at various levels of government. In the United States (US), there are federal discrimination laws. Additionally, such laws tend to exist at the state level and often at local levels as well. Although the intention of these laws is generally good, they may sometimes have limited effects, since they do not actually change peoples' thoughts but rather criminalize certain acts. For justice to be administered for these crimes, there must be proof and proving that a decision was based on racial prejudice is often difficult.

Racial discrimination laws encourage more diversity.
Racial discrimination laws encourage more diversity.

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Discussion Comments


@fify-- The problem with quota laws is that those who are not minorities feel that these laws actually discriminate against them. I think it's a difficult thing to implement. At the end of the day, when it comes to employment, the person who is most qualified should get the job regardless of their race. But giving a job to a minority just because he is a minority is also a form of discrimination.


In some countries, anti-discrimination laws require that government institutions like government agencies or government schools maintain a quota for minorities that must be filled. It's also common in the US, where some organizations have to have a certain percentage of their employees females.

I think that this is a great way to fight racial discrimination. It's mostly used for preventing gender and disability discrimination I think. It can be implemented more to make sure that institutions and organizations have a mix of people, representing all races, genders, religions, etc. At least a portion of the employee pool should fit this criteria.


The US has a strong history of racial discrimination as we all know. Particularly Native Americans and African Americans have been at the receiving end. Some other minorities as well have been subject to it at varying degrees and at varying times.

Discrimination is not as big a problem as before but it still continues. The target does seem to change based on the current times, political developments, etc. But there is always at least one group being treated unfairly, or feeling that way.

I went to a mostly white university in the Midwest, but a very open-minded institution with students of different backgrounds. I remember that in the cafeteria, the African American students always sat together and didn't mingle with the others. It was strange because no one seemed to be discriminating between the students. The white students were not doing anything either. But I could feel that the African American students weren't comfortable mingling with other races. I never understood this but it made me wonder if discrimination was still taking place without us realizing. It was literally like a self-imposed segregation in the cafeteria.

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