Definitions and concepts
Racism can be broadly defined as the types of behaviours, practices, beliefs and prejudices that
underlie avoidable and unfair inequalities across groups in society based on race, ethnicity, culture
or religion. Race-based discrimination is behaviours and practices that result in avoidable and
unfair inequalities across groups in society.2 This definition encompasses not only racial violence
or illegal forms of discrimination (‘direct’, or overt), but subtle forms of exclusion as well (‘indirect’,
or covert, hidden).
Racism can occur at three conceptual levels, which overlap in practice:
– interpersonal racism – racist interactions between people
– internalised racism – the incorporation of racist ideologies within the worldview of an
individual who experiences racism which may have an effect on how they regard and/or
behave toward themselves, members of their group and those from other groups
– systemic or institutional racism – formal policies, practices, processes and conditions that
serve to increase power differentials between racial, ethnic, cultural or religious groups.3, 4
Racism can be direct (or overt) or indirect (covert or hidden).
Direct racism is based in differential treatment that results in an unequal distribution of power,
resources or opportunities across different groups, such as a refusal to hire people from a
particular ethnic group.
Indirect racism is equal treatment that impacts groups differently and therefore results in an
unequal distribution of power, resources or opportunities across different groups. An example of
indirect racism is a policy that requires all employees to have their head uncovered while working.
While the policy is the same for all employees, it adversely affects the opportunities of those who
wear head coverings for religious or traditional reasons.