Race Discrimination Basics
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed August 23, 2017
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Race discrimination occurs when a member of a racial group is subjected to different or unequal treatment ("discrimination") in any number of situations, when that treatment is based on the individual's race. Discrimination on the basis of race, like any form of discrimination, can be overt and obvious. For example, a landlord offers storage space to all Caucasian tenants, but does not offer storage space to non-Caucasian tenants. Instances of racial discrimination can also be subtle or unintentional, such as disparate impact discrimination where a racial group is disproportionately impacted with the application of a neutral policy. For example, an employer requires criminal background checks for all job applicants prior to a phone interview. This policy could have a disparate impact on non-Caucasian applicants if they have a higher rate of criminal arrests.
Where and When Can Race Discrimination Occur?
Race discrimination can take place in many different settings, but typically occurs most often in the following situations:
Employment - Including claims that an employer failed to hire, failed to promote, or wrongfully terminated an employee based on his or her race; and claims for racial harassment of employees.
Education - Including claims for exclusion from educational programs or opportunities based on race, denial of admissions based on race, and racial harassment of students.
Housing - Including claims for refusal to negotiate with a person seeking housing, imposition of different lease/contract terms (or "redlining"), and refusal to extend a loan based on the race of the applicant/tenant/buyer.
Access to Buildings and Businesses - Including claims that a business failed to properly accommodate/serve a customer based on his or her race.
Borrowing / Credit - Including claims for refusal to extend credit, claims for imposition of unequal loan terms, and claims arising from improper inquiries during the credit/loan approval process, based on the race of the applicant.
Voting - Including claims for denial of access to polling places, racially discriminatory voter qualification/eligibility requirements, and claims for "dilution" of votes through racially discriminatory redistricting practices.
Police Misconduct - Including claims for racial profiling, and claims for criminal civil rights violations such as use of excessive force.
(Note: race discrimination claims can also involve national origin discrimination, especially when the discrimination victim was born outside of the United States.)
Laws Prohibiting Race Discrimination
Most laws guaranteeing and regulating civil rights (including laws prohibiting race discrimination) originate at the federal level, through federal legislation (such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Civil rights have also been defined and interpreted through federal court decisions (such as those handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court). States also pass their own civil rights laws (usually very similar to those at the federal level), and even municipalities like cities and counties can enact ordinances and laws related to civil rights and race discrimination.
Get a Lawyer's Help with Your Race Discrimination Claim
If you believe you have suffered a civil rights violation because of your race, the best place to start is to speak with an attorney experienced in discrimination issues. Important decisions related to your case can be complicated -- including which laws apply to your situation. An attorney will evaluate all aspects of your case and explain all options available to you, in order to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified civil rights attorney to help you protect your rights.