Race, Racism, Anti-Racism: From Dialogue to Action

Definition of Terminologies

Race is the socially constructed differences among people based on characteristics such as accent or manner of speech, name, clothing, diet, beliefs and practices, leisure preferences, places of origin and so forth. The process of social constructions of race is called racialization: the process by which societies construct races as real, different and unequal in ways that matter to economic, political and social life.

Racism is a broader experience and practice than racial discrimination. Racism can be openly displayed in racial jokes and slurs or hate crimes, but can also be more deeply rooted in attitudes, values and stereotypical beliefs. In some cases, these are unconsciously held and have evolved over time, becoming embedded in systems and institutions, and also associated with the dominant group’s power and privilege.

Racial discrimination is a legally prohibited expression of racism. It is any action based on a person’s race, intentional or not, that imposes burdens on a person or group and not on others, or that withholds or limits access to benefits available to other members of society in areas covered by the Code. Race only needs to be one factor in a situation for racial discrimination to have occurred.

Racial discrimination can often be very subtle, such as being assigned to less desirable jobs, or being denied mentoring and development opportunities. It might also mean being subjected to different management standards than other workers, being denied an apartment because you appear to have Aboriginal ancestry or facing unfair scrutiny by police while driving or by security staff at a shopping mall.

Racial harassment is a form of discrimination. It includes comments, jokes, name-calling, display of pictures or behavior that insults you, offends you or puts you down because of your race and other related grounds.

Anti-racism: A commitment and planned ongoing process to eliminate racism and racial discrimination in its various forms (individual, institutional and systemic). The first step in anti-racism is admitting that racism and racial discrimination exists and the varied and subtle forms in which they manifest.

Ontario Human Rights Commission