Racism in Developing Countries Widespread


STOCKHOLM, Sweden- According to a recent study conducted by Swedish economists, many of the world’s most racially intolerant countries are located in the developing world.

The results of the study were largely based on a survey called the World Values Survey, which has been examining global opinions for decades. The survey asked people in more than 80 countries to identify people they wouldn’t want as neighbors. One of the answers respondents could choose was “people of a different race.” The more people from a particular country who chose this answer, the more racist the researchers found that country to be.

India, Jordan, Nigeria and Indonesia are among the most racist countries in the world according to the results of the survey.   All of these countries are developing economically, suggesting racism in developing countries is worse than in developed countries.


More than 40 percent of those surveyed in India said they would not want to reside next to someone of a different race. The results of the survey in India, while troubling, are not surprising considering the country’s long, complicated racial history.

Sometimes referred to as India’s “hidden apartheid,” racism based upon one’s caste system is still widespread, according to NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. It’s estimated that more than 160 million people in India are vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation—and even violence—because of their caste.

Often referred to as the untouchables, the Dalits are a group of people often condemned to harsh treatment in India. The Dalits face blatant discrimination in terms of employment opportunities, marriage prospects and everyday social interaction.  Some lower caste members have even been subjected to violence. These acts of violence are usually unprovoked and carried out by someone of a higher caste.

It is also an unspoken reality that many Indians with light skin are considered more attractive and have a better standing in society. A recent case of discrimination against an Indian with “dark” skin occurred when Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America in September. Davuluri, a New York resident of Indian descent, was widely criticized in the media as unattractive and “too dark,” by critics of mostly Indian descent themselves.


Discrimination against Palestinians in the Middle East is hardly a new phenomenon, but the problem is intensifying in Jordan. King Abdullah has been accused of blatantly discriminating Palestinians carrying Jordanian passports. Some even accuse him of intentionally marginalizing Palestinians through his laws and security measures.

Palestinians in Jordan are discriminated against in many facets of life, according to the International Policy Council. For example, priority is given to Jordanians with no Palestinians roots in the college admission process, they often receive deplorable treatment in Jordanian prisons, and qualified Palestinians are often turned down for jobs in favor of Jordanian candidates.

King Abdullah has even been accused of trying to limit the number of Palestinians serving in Jordan’s parliament.


The Nigerian government has a long history of being hostile towards minority groups within the country. The government regularly denies basic services, academic scholarships and jobs to those they consider non-indigenous, according to Human Rights Watch.

A person is considered non-indigenous if they cannot prove they have an ancestor who is an original settler of the area where they reside. Because of widespread migration, proving their roots has become a problem for many Nigerians. It doesn’t matter if a person’s family has lived in a specific area for decades. People are considered foreign if they cannot document their origins.

Racial discrimination in Nigeria often turns violent. It’s estimated that racial disputes result in hundreds of deaths every year.


More than 30 percent of survey respondents in Indonesia said they would not like to have a neighbor of another race. But racial discrimination in Indonesia goes far beyond preferences.

Discrimination against Indonesian citizens of Chinese descent has been an issue for decades. Even though the Chinese have been in Indonesia for centuries, they are still largely considered to be strange foreigners.  At the time of the last census in 2000, ethnic Chinese were thought to number 1.7 million in Indonesia. These numbers are thought to be even higher today, making Chinese descendants a sizable percentage of Indonesia’s population.

Racism against those of Chinese ancestry has been widespread and includes social stigma, discrimination in the workplace and unfair treatment by government entities.  This discrimination turned violent in 1998 when angry mobs turned against Chinese citizens in the capital of Jakarta. Triggered by the struggle for political power, anti-Chinese mobsters killed, raped and robbed hundreds of Chinese people. This event caused thousands of Chinese to flee the country and caused an even larger rift between the two groups that continues today.

There are many theories explaining the cause of racism in developing countries. While causes differ from country to country, racism usually stems from tradition, economic inequality and the struggle for political power.

Allison Johnson

Sources: BBC, Washington Post, The Guardian, NYU, The Guardian, International Policy Council


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