Racial discrimination, in law, is any act that treats people of other races in a different manner. Many countries have specific laws forbidding this practice, although others have few laws addressing this issue. Definitions may vary, and may not just define race by specific lineage, but they could use the term, color, so that treatment based on skin color is grouped under race discrimination, too. Many countries set up protected classes, like race, color, national origin, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, and it may be illegal to treat someone differently based on which class the person belongs to.
In the US, many laws forbid racial discrimination, and a number of these are directly derived from Title VII in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The first of these acts states that employers cannot refuse to hire qualified employees based on race or skin color, and they can’t do other things like harass them, refuse promotions, or pay them at lower rates because of their race. The 1991 Civil Rights Act defines some ways that people who have experienced this discrimination can sue.
Countries, cities, states, or regions can have additional laws attempting to end discrimination based on race. These laws could address issues like the consequences of treating people differently if they attempt to get a loan, rent an apartment, use a business or a business service, or if they try to take advantage of government services to which they are entitled. Many of these laws address behaviors that were common in parts of the US prior to the 1964 Act, such as the tendency in many parts of the American South to segregate races or promote “whites only” service.
It can be difficult to prove racial discrimination in some circumstances. A person of a protected class might not get hired for a job, for example, and he or she could believe this due to discrimination. In order to make a case, the person would have to establish that his skills are equal or better than those of someone who was hired, and that the person hired didn’t also belong to a protected class. Moreover, it might be necessary to show that the company had a history of turning down applicants due to race.
It may be easier to prove discrimination when a company treats employees of a different race or color in an unfair way. If all or most employees of a specific race make less money than other employees, this could be actionable. The law generally determines the degree to which racism is allowable, and attorneys specializing in civil rights cases are usually the best people to consult to find out if an organization’s behavior somehow breaks established laws.