Topic 1: Common definition of Racism VS definition of Racism/Discrimination in the Race Equality Directive



  • prejudice, discrimination, or antagonismby an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized (
  • “Belief that humans are subdivided into distinct groups that are different in their social behavior and innate capacities and that can be ranked as superior or inferior” (Newman, David M. (2012). Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life(9th ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications. p. 405. ISBN978-1-4129-8729-5)


“Ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin” (

From the Cambridge Dictionary: racism is represented by policies, behaviours, rules, etc. that result in a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race; or as well harmful or unfair things that people say, do, or think based on the belief that their own race makes them more intelligent, good, moral, etc. than people of other races

From Art. 1(1) of UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: Racial Discrimination isAny distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”


Common definition of Discrimination

Discrimination: treating a person or particular group of people differently, especially in a worse way from the way in which you treat other people, because of their race, gender, sexuality, etc. DISCRIMINATION | English meaning – Cambridge Dictionary

The discrimination is an “umbrella word” that includes somehow the racism because the bad or adverse treatment that happens in an episode of racism (against a specific race or ethnic group) represents discrimination. Discrimination happening on the grounds of race is racism.

In the Race Equality Directive is not mentioned the word Racism. The Directive define instead the topics of Discrimination (Direct and Indirect), Harassment, Victimisation and Instruction to discriminate.

After all, according to the United Nations’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, there is no distinction between the terms “racial” and “ethnic” discrimination.

Discrimination is a big “umbrella word” under which is possible to identify different forms of blame and shaming, and different grounds of discrimination: sexual, racial, religious, social, economic, etc.

The EU traditionally recognizes four forms of discrimination: individual, structural and  institutional.


Moreover the discrimination may happen not only on one ground (racial, sexual, social, economic, etc.) but on different ones. In these cases we speak of multiple discrimination that creates a cumulative disadvantage. Is important therefore to distinguish between:

Around 1989 a new type of discrimination was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory, who first spoke of Intersectionality and Intersectional discrimination to help explain the oppression of African-American women.

Intersectional discrimination happens when two or multiple grounds operate in a simultaneous way  and interact in an inseparable manner. The discrimination that arises from these inseparable behaviours is different from the previous multiple forms of discrimination. What has to be taken in consideration, in fact, is not the addition of different grounds of discrimination but their negative synergy. The whole discrimination  cannot be fully understood as the addition of the different behaviours  alone: is instead  the particular intersection of all these factors that makes her case individual.

Intersectional discrimination has not been recognized immediately at a national and EU level.

Still now the legal and policy frameworks traditionally rely on addressing discrimination through a single-axis angle while there is a lack of explicit standards for cases involving intersectional discrimination.

This limited approach reflects how European legal bodies are currently underequipped to address cases of intersectional discrimination.

We try to better explain intersectional discrimination through a meaningful CASE STUDY:

A young Roma woman is discriminated in the labour market because she is Roma and is considered ‘dangerous’, because she is a woman, and therefore considered less capable than a man and because she is young and therefore inexperienced. In being considered inexperienced, the woman shares certain experiences of discrimination with young people; in being assumed to fit into a traditional role, she shares experiences with other women; and in being perceived as dangerous, she shares experiences with all Roma, including men. However, all the three grounds of discrimination intercat together  and render the case unique.


How does discrimination work?

How does social context influence our perceptions of race, class, and gender?

How does intersectionality contribute to inequality?