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Race / Racial Discrimination

What Defines a “Race”?

There are many components that can determine what racial “category” you fall into (e.g. American Indian, Asian, African American, Latino, Hispanic, etc.), which may include, but is not limited to, national origin, ancestry, culture or ethnicity, and/or skin color. See below how each characteristic is different from each other yet overlap in many ways.

National Origin

The use of the word “race” is very general and sometimes isn’t enough to describe what might be happening to you. For instance, it will very clear that racism is present if it is one race against an other, such as an Asian person making racist comments about the African American race. However, what if the situation is a Chinese person making comments about a Korean person. Both people are Asian so how can we say that an Asian is being racist against their own race? The reality is that this is national origin discrimination. The subject at issue is specifically what country the person is from or what their racial background is. This leads us to the next characteristic: ancestry.


The majority of Americans are born in the United States but can still face racism from fellow Americans. Why is that? For many reasons: the color of their skin or their perceived national origin. “Perceived national origin,” what does that mean? It means that even though, by birth, your national origin is American, your ancestors might not have been American and you are being treated differently because of that.

America is made up of people of many different races, backgrounds and racial history. Unfortunately, sometimes those differences can create conflict. All of our ancestors were born in another country and traveled here to become a citizen of the United States. Your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., might have traveled from Mexico, Guatemala, Vietnam, or the Philippines, and because of that, the color of your skin and physical features can different from one another. Despite being just as American as any other person, your diverse ancestry can cause you to be treated differently.

Skin Color & Physical Features

The color of your skin or physical features might be the first indication that you are “different” from another person. Physical features might include the lightness/darkness of skin, height, eye shape, eye color, hair color, and/or hair type. This is the most common characteristic that people are racially discriminated for.

Culture / Ethnicity

Culture and ethnicity describe your racial upbringing including any ancestral or racial traditions and/or any regional accents you might have, such as, having special traditional names, dialects or accents, dressing and grooming practices, and/or cultural behaviors. Racism can come from these cultures being stereotyped and associated with certain national origins. Some specific examples include: the assumption that all Asians can use chopsticks; African Americans are judged for their manner of speech or use of slang; or Mexicans are culturally stereotyped as party animals.

Harassment in the Work Place due to Your Race

Your employer might treat you worse compared to your coworkers because of your race; that is considered harassment. Harassment can be verbal, physical or visual. Verbal harassment can include obscene language, demeaning comments, slurs, or even threats. It does not have to be oral to be considered verbal; text messages, postings, letters, or emails containing inappropriate language count as verbal abuse. Physical harassment is any unwanted touching or interference with your normal workspace or movement, such as having essential job equipment missing or being denied access to your workstation. Visual harassment includes offensive posters, drawings, images, or objects being purposefully displayed. These are just a few examples but being subjected to any conduct that is unwanted and derogatory is not acceptable.

Some identifiers of racial discrimination can be simple facts; are you the only race in your work place and the only one treated differently or worse? If there is a wide range of diversity in your workplace, is only one specific race being treated better? Does the manager or supervisor treat his/her own race better? If your harasser is of the same race as you, then are you being treated differently because of your different national origin, culture, or physical features?


Retaliation means that your employer “punished” you because you for exercised your rights. In this case, it is your right to be in a work environment free of discrimination, harassment and retaliation due to your race. Retaliatory actions can include increased harassment, a demotion, a pay cut, reduced work hours (that you didn’t ask for), or termination.

What Next?

If any of the above has happened to you, there is a possibility that you have been discriminated against. The examples and scenarios listed above are just that, examples. Everyone’s situation is different so if you feel like you are being treated differently because of your race, national origin, culture, ancestry or skin color, give us a call and speak to someone about it today.

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