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Would it be considered racist if a store owner believes all Canadians are thieves and does not let any Canadians into his store? Racism pertains to discriminating based on race, and (correct me if I'm wrong) Canadians are not a race. What would be an appropriate word to describe an individual such as the store owner?

The discrimination is specific to Canadians, not foreigners in general. I'm looking for a word that could be applied to someone who lives in the country they discriminate against. For example if a Canadian announces "all Canadian culture is stupid!" what would that be called?

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    Racism is often used to describe discrimination only loosely connected to ethnicity, like nationality or creed. Mar 26, 2014 at 5:46
  • I think you could avoid suggesting racist altogether and asked what to call such a person, instead.
    – Kris
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:12
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    'Racism', like 'democracy' is a highly contested term. It can mean any one of a variety of beliefs and practices. The only thing certain about it is that it is abusive to call someone a 'racist'. In Britain in the 1970's a Sikh boy was suspended from his school for wearing a turban. It appeared to be a clear case of breach of the Race Relations Act. However the Court of Appeal held that to be a Sikh was not a matter of race but of religion, and whilst it was unlawful to discriminate by race, it was perfectly lawful to do so by religion. The law may since have been changed.
    – WS2
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:21
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    There are many kinds of bigotry and discrimination. Not all of them are specifically given their own names. Mar 28, 2014 at 13:12
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    110 % Opinion Based
    – user 66974
    Aug 12, 2022 at 8:46

12 Answers 12

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That's a xenophobe:

one unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin.

More generally, and not limited to nationality or origin, is a bigot:

a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group...

(and that includes Canadians).

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    I'm not sure if that's what I'm looking for. For example if the store owner in the example moved to Canada but still had the same mentalities, then he would not be a foreigner.
    – Celeritas
    Mar 26, 2014 at 5:05
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    See my update with bigot. Mar 26, 2014 at 5:13
  • @Celeritas I disagree, he would be even more of a foreigner because he is not living in his native land. "You can live in a stable, it doesn't make you a horse." Of course he could live there legally as a citizen, maybe hold a Canadian passport, but culturally he would be very different from his Canadian neighbours. Especially if he thought they were all thieves!
    – Mynamite
    Mar 26, 2014 at 8:49
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    +1 for bigot. You can even be of the same race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, culture and hate your own group. That phrase is usually self-hating followed by the group name, such as a self-hating Canadian. Where the prejudice is broader, disparaging anyone from a different group, ethnocentric could apply.
    – bib
    Mar 26, 2014 at 12:47
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    Someone is not a xenophobe if they believe that some foreigners (e.g. Canadians) are inherently bad while other nationalities (e.g. Australians) are good. To be a xenophobe you need to believe that all foreigners are bad. Mar 26, 2014 at 14:51
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+50

The definition of racism is very fuzzy, partly because the definition of race itself is fuzzy, partly because the definition of discrimination is fuzzy, and partly because racism and other kinds of bigotry tend to go hand in hand.

While most conceptualizations of racism include the notion of “race based discrimination,” the exact definition is controversial both because there is little scholarly agreement about the meaning of the concept “race,” and because there is also little agreement about what does and does not constitute discrimination.

Wikipedia goes into some detail on this confusion. This part is particularly relevant to the question at hand (emphasis added):

Among the questions about how to define racism are the question of whether to include forms of discrimination that are unintentional, such as making assumptions about preferences or abilities of others based on racial stereotypes, whether to include symbolic or institutionalized forms of discrimination such as the circulation of ethnic stereotypes through the media, and whether to include the socio-political dynamics of social stratification that sometimes have a racial component. Some definitions of racism also include discriminatory behaviors and beliefs based on cultural, national, ethnic, caste, or religious stereotypes.

So not everyone agrees, but if you wanted to call the scenario in your question racism, you surely wouldn’t be alone.

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    As you say, the whole concept of "racism" is itself, paradoxically, based on a "racist" (or let's say bigoted to avoid infinite recursion) assumption, namely that "race" even exists as a meaningful distinction. Aug 16, 2016 at 13:08
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Technically believing that Canadians are bad is not racist, as Canadians are not a race - and are made up of many races. However the word is used in this situation, since there doesn't seem to be a viable alternative. 'Nationalist' means something else, and 'xenophobe' applies only if the prejudice is directed at all foreigners.

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The person is called a discriminator as the person holds prejudice against a certain group of people. This usage of the word goes back to 1886 per OED; and here is the definition provided:

Originally U.S. A person who treats people or groups in an unfair or prejudicial manner, esp. on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.


The action is called discrimination. OED gives 1819 for the first usage of this sense; and gives the definition as below:

Originally U.S. Unjust or prejudicial treatment of a person or group, esp. on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.; frequently with against. Also (with in favour of): favourable treatment of a person or group, in order to compensate for disadvantage or lack of privilege.
age, gender, job, positive, race, reverse, sex, sexual discrimination, etc.: see the first element.

More specifically, it can be called nationality discrimination. It falls under racial discrimination (or race discrimination) in certain legal definitions.

Article 1(1) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a United Nations convention, defines racial discrimination as:

any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
ohchr.org

In UK legislation, the Equality Act 2010 includes race under the protected characteristics, and the term race includes nationality also. Here are the details from citizensadvice.org.uk referencing legislation.gov.uk:

Race discrimination is when you’re treated unfairly because of one of the following things:

  • colour
  • nationality
  • ethnic origin
  • national origin.

You can be discriminated against because you belong to a certain racial group. People who share the same colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins are part of the same racial group.

The U.S. Department of Justice provides the details below regarding national origin discrimination:

Federal laws prohibit discrimination based on a person's national origin, race, color, religion, disability, sex, and familial status. Laws prohibiting national origin discrimination make it illegal to discriminate because of a person's birthplace, ancestry, culture or language. This means people cannot be denied equal opportunity because they or their family are from another country, because they have a name or accent associated with a national origin group, because they participate in certain customs associated with a national origin group, or because they are married to or associate with people of a certain national origin. - justice.gov

Wikipedia provides an etymological reference on how the word discrimination evolved by citing Introduction to sociology (7th edition) published by W. W. Norton & Company Inc.:

Since the American Civil War the term "discrimination" generally evolved in American English usage as an understanding of prejudicial treatment of an individual based solely on their race, later generalized as membership in a certain socially undesirable group or social category.

Thus, it can be applied to any kind of group including nationality.


I believe the term is internalized racism for the second question, and it is a form of internalized oppression. The term internalized discrimination is used in a fair amount of sources as well.

Internalized racism occurs when a member of a group which is a target of racism assumes a racist attitude towards their own group.
Wikipedia

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    What I believe we are moving towards, in most countries is a 'general law of discrimination'. It is quite ridiculous that race or religious discrimination is unlawful, but that an employer or another can discriminate as much as they like on the basis of social class, physical appearance etc. One of the most discriminated-against groups are women who are considered not to have good looks, good bodily proportions etc.
    – WS2
    Mar 26, 2014 at 6:28
  • Also, the adjective is "discriminatory".
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 26, 2014 at 16:58
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    The bounty made me update my answer from ~8 years ago. It looks better now 👍
    – ermanen
    Aug 12, 2022 at 9:01
  • But "discrimination" can be used in a number of contexts. It is not bad for someone to discriminate against arsonists, for example.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 14, 2022 at 17:35
  • Thus, I've offered the specific and legal terms as well. Discriminator is the general term but one can explain in different ways like "It is discrimination against Canadians", "He is showing discriminatory behaviour towards Canadians." etc.
    – ermanen
    Aug 15, 2022 at 8:28
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Although it has been co-opted, chauvinist meant

a person who is aggressively and blindly patriotic, especially one devoted to military glory. (c. 1870)

Long before it meant

a person who believes one gender is superior to the other, as a male chauvinist or a female chauvinist. (c. 1970)

Dictionary.com says

Origin: 1865–70; < French chauvinisme, equivalent to chauvin jingo (named after N. Chauvin, a soldier in Napoleon's army noted for loud-mouthed patriotism)

Chauvinism is closer to saying that "My country is great" rather than "Canadians are stupid," but it conveys much of the OP's request.

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The desired term would be bigot. I am assuming, though, that “Canadians" is used as an example, not as a specific case. As was pointed out, the discriminatory attitude in question is applied to a group, not because of race, but because of membership in a group. The group could be based on nationality, but is not necessarily so. It could be discrimation based on some other group trait, for example: dog-lovers. A person who is irrationally prejudiced against a group is a bigot. From Merriam-Webster:

: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices

especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

Other terms for bigotry would typically not be suited to this case, as their definitions would be overly narrow. For instance, racism is specifically bigotry based on race. The original question does state "nationality", so nationalism could be applied. However, nationalism also has broader political connotations, and may not include "hatred and intolerance", so isn't particularly well suited to describe bigotry. In this case, "nationality" is just a grouping of people. Xenophobia might be considered, but xenophobia is a broader fearfulness of everyone (and possibly everything) that is foreign, and thus is also not suited.

Which brings us back to bigot. The behavior described is bigotry, plain and simple, nothing fancy about it!

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Race in itself, is actually a social construct and has no scientific basis. The term of race, while it may exist on forms, has been used as a tool to oppress others and push forward the ideology of the dominant group based on a belief of superiority, that has no basis in fact.

In Canada this is oftentimes referred to as Ethnocentrism. In this, there is a false dichotomy that one groups worldviews are superior over other marginalized groups of people based solely on ethnicity.

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The term generally used for this is "prejudiced." No one is really called a "discriminator" in real life, nor are they called a "chauvinist" unless it's specifically used in the context of a "male chauvinist." For bigoted attitudes towards another group, it is prejudice and the person in question is described as prejudiced. "Bigoted" and "bigot" are also used but less frequently IMO.

More frequently than either is used "biased" and "bias" but that's a milder term that doesn't have as strong an implication of inherent wrongdoing.

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  • According to Eysenck, "prejudiced" is different in an important way: Someone who is prejudiced can be convinced that for some individuals the prejudice is incorrect. "I hate black people but my daughters black boyfriend is actually Ok". "Racists" and many other -ists can be totally irrational and simultaneously believe contradictory things. "These black people are just lazy, and they want to take our jobs away" - make up your mind please, they can't be both.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 16, 2022 at 16:30
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Racism stands for the prejudices (animosity, tendency to discriminate, etc.) against some (but not necessarily all) races other than one's own, without naming any particular race (although the context will usually make it clear what the relevant race is). The OP is seeking a term that would be analgous to racism in that it would stand for the prejudices (animosity, tendency to discriminate, etc.) (1) against some nationalities (but not necessarily against all foreign nationalities), (2) without naming the nationalities in question.

There is no term that satisfies both these conditions. There are terms, suggested elsewhere in this page, that satisfy (2), but not (1), i.e. that stand for such prejudices against all foreign nationalities (xenophobia, chauvinism). That is, however, not what the OP has in mind; the question explicitly says that the attitude in question is not directed at 'foreigners in general'.

The closest that one can get to what the OP seeks is to use a term for such prejudices that does specify what the nationality in question is (i.e. a term that satisfies (1), but not (2)). These days, such terms are usually created by attaching -phobia to some form of the name of the nationality. Dictionaries thus contain entries for, say, Francophobia and Germanophobia, but the suffix is probably familiar enough that combining it with the name of any nationality will be readily understood, even if such combination does not appear in dictionaries. Canadophobia is used rarely, but some occurrences of it can be found. Wikipedia, for example, recognises the word, but directs those who may be looking for an article on that topic to the one entitled Anti-Canadian sentiment.

(Hardcore prescriptivists may object to such uses of -phobia, on the ground that the prejudices (animosity, tendency to discriminate, etc.) need not really involve fear. The practice has, however, become far too well established for this argument to have much force, particularly because there does not seem to be a good alternative to it.)

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Distinctions can be made between RACE and ETHINICITY in the context that Race is generally used in Biological terms like the Colour, height, Facial structure etc of the indigenous natives of a particular place but Ethnicity can better be explained in terms of traditions which can be caused due to the weather, climate, topography of that area like the food habits, pattern of clad and clothing etc.

Racism is a broader concept but still it can be used rather than Xenophobia( usually Phobia is used for fears, a person who fears from the people of other countries) but Bigotry is better in case of that store keeper because may be in Canada there can be some people of the same Race which that store keeper belongs to.

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Would it be considered racist if a store owner believes all Canadians are thieves and does not let any Canadians into his store?

Two points arise:

  1. You should clarify by whom it might be considered racist – there are quite a few populous countries in the world that have little or no legislation or common custom that addresses such discrimination.

  2. We can give our own opinion of what this form of discrimination is called but, for it to have any force, there would have to be legislation in place. This legislation would have its own criteria and terms.

In broad terms, Canada is an artificial area with a diverse population. You should bear in mind that countries impose visa regimes on nationals of other countries, but do not impose visa regimes on “races”. Canada demands that nationals of the PRC who wish to enter Canada hold visas, but does not require visas from Irish nationals.

The storeholder in question appears prejudiced against Canadians* and no more than that.

*Of course there is always the possibility that 100% of Canadians who have entered his store have stolen something.

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  • "Canada demands that nationals of the PRC who wish to enter Canada hold visas, but does not require visas from Irish nationals." - I think that exemplifies the same kind of discrimination where people are judged or discriminated against based on the country where they live and/or were born, and seems to fit the scope of the question.
    – undercat
    Aug 13, 2022 at 9:06
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Yes, it may be.

First, you have to consider all that "nationality" means, though. These are definitions of "nationality" on dictionary.com:

nationality
noun

  1. the status of belonging to a particular nation, whether by birth or naturalization: the nationality of an immigrant.
  2. the relationship of property, holdings, etc., to a particular nation, or to one or more of its members: the nationality of a ship.
  3. nationalism.
  4. existence as a distinct nation; national independence: a small colony that has just achieved nationality.
  5. a nation or people: the nationalities of the Americas.
  6. a national quality or character: Nationalities tend to submerge and disappear in a metropolis.

That's a wide array. A person's "nationality" is not as simple as what country they were born in, which it is often oversimplified as, especially in the US because of how anyone born in the US is a citizen of the US and so a member of the nation that is the United States of America. But it's not that simple, actually not even in the US, like Native Americans born in the US, if they get a passport, have a US passport showing them being US citizens, their nationality being "American," but they are also of their Native American nations, so, for example, a Chippewa's passport may show their nationality as "American," but their nationality is also "Chippewa," they being of the Chippewa nation.

Moreover, much of the world does not determine "nationality" by simply being born within a given country's borders, like German "nationality" is determined by being born to German parents, either in Germany or abroad, whereas simply being born within the borders of the nation that is Germany does not make one's nationality German such that people born within the borders of Germany to non-Germans don't have German "nationality," meaning they aren't born citizens and aren't even eligible for a German passport, much less one that states their "nationality" is "German."

Once you consider all that "nationality" may mean, you must then consider all that "race" may mean. These are definitions of "race" on dictionary.com:

race
noun

  1. a group of persons related by common descent or heredity.
  2. a population so related.
  3. Anthropology
  • (no longer in technical use) any of the traditional divisions of humankind, the commonest being the Caucasian, Mongoloid, and Negro, characterized by supposedly distinctive and universal physical characteristics.
  • an arbitrary classification of modern humans, sometimes, especially formerly, based on any or a combination of various physical characteristics, as skin color, facial form, or eye shape, and now frequently based on such genetic markers as blood groups.
  • a socially constructed category of identification based on physical characteristics, ancestry, historical affiliation, or shared culture: Her parents wanted her to marry within her race.
  • a human population partially isolated reproductively from other populations, whose members share a greater degree of physical and genetic similarity with one another than with other humans.
  1. a group of tribes or peoples forming an ethnic lineage: the Slavic race.
  2. any people united by common history, language, cultural traits, etc.: the Dutch race.
  3. the human race or family; humankind: Nuclear weapons pose a threat to the race.
  4. Zoology. a variety; subspecies.
  5. a natural kind of living creature: the race of fishes.
  6. any group, class, or kind, especially of persons: Journalists are an interesting race.

Notice the three definitions above that I've put in bold for you. Each of those three definitions allow for one's "nationality" to be one's "race," or rather for one's "race" to be based on or determined by one's "nationality."

The second "Anthropology" definition above defines "race" as "an arbitrary classification." The classification being "arbitrary" means that it can be applied to classify people by something as arbitrary as their nationality. Keep in mind that everything from "sometimes" on is just providing some examples, not a comprehensive list of every possible arbitrary classification that "race" can include.

The third "Anthropological" definition above defines "race" as "a socially constructed category of identifications based on physical characteristics, ancestry, historical affiliation, or shared culture." For one, being "socially constructed" means it's based on whatever assumptions a society or group makes, the definition of "social construct" being "a complex concept or practice shared by a society or group, not arising from any natural or innate source but built on the assumptions upheld, usually tacitly, by its members," so if any society bases "race" on "nationality" (e.g., a society of Germans in Nazi Germany basing race on nationality when referring to "The German Race"), then being prejudiced against people on the basis of nationality becomes "racist," like it was in Nazi Germany. For two, since the definition uses "or," not "and," and since "nationality" easily falls under the umbrella of "historical affiliation" and also of "shared culture," just one of those being enough, "race" can be based on "nationality," this provides two more paths by which holding prejudice against people because of their nationality may be considered "racist."

The fifth definition of "race" above, like the third "Anthropology" definition, also clearly allows for nationality to be the basis of racial categorization, thus holding prejudice against a people because of their nationality may be considered "racist" under this definition, as well, the very example given being "the Dutch race."

Now consider the following quote:

"Race is the child of racism; not the father." -Ta-Nehisi Coates

That pithy observation flows from and points to "race" being defined as "an arbitrary classification" and "socially constructed," making race both totally subjective and totally artificial, as in not bona fide, not real. What is real is racism, objectively so, because while people's assumptions and bases for categorizing other people in such a manner as race are totally arbitrary and made up, often even indefinable, even among themselves, people's racist attitudes and actions (i.e., prejudice people hold) that result are not but are quite real and become quite systematic, even systematized.

Example:

Say that my second toe happens to be my longest toe. Say that I find a bunch of other people whose second toe is their longest toe. Say that we, now a group or society, undertake alienating people from ourselves who are different, people whose second toe isn't their longest toe, people we, on a basis so arbitrary as toe length, start making disparaging assumptions about, even categorically mistreating, including those who for whatever reason seem to us like a kind whose second toe would be the longest even though we don't really know for sure, like maybe we've never seen their feet but we come to assume everyone whose toe isn't the longest smells a certain way or is left-handed or is stingy or whatever. Then I, along with that bunch of other people who were born with their second toe as their longest toe that I've joined up with, are "racist," arbitrarily imagining a Second-Toe's-the-Longest race exists, along with a First-Toe's-the-Longest race and other races too, like maybe one for those where neither toe is longer than the other, they being the same size, or where the third toe is the longest, etc., all those races being the children of my racism, of our racism. I would have a pathology of racism, which consists of, one, using an arbitrary basis to identify and categorize people as being born into a group that I believe includes me and that I also include myself in and, two, in turn using that same arbitrary basis to identify and categorize people as being born into a group or groups that I believe exclude me and that I then exclude with prejudice. So, even though there's really no such thing as a Second-Toe's-the-Longest race, except in my imagination and the imaginations of those who've joined me, there now really is such thing as a Second-Toe's-the-Longest racist (e.g., me). Even though I and my fellow Second-Toe's the Longest racists (believing we are superior, the Master Second-Toe's-the-Longest Race, as it were) hold our prejudices against First-Toe's-the-Longest people, mistreating them and whatnot with our racism, our race isn't real. Our being racist is real. Our racism is real. But our race isn't real. It's not real for a number of reasons, the most salient being that race itself's not real but just a phony, made-up, arbitrary basis that racists use to raise themselves up and benefit themselves with inclusion by putting others down and prejudicing them with exclusion, exclusion to such extent that it may even be so extreme as to include exclusion from life, annihilation.

To address what's real, people being "racist," requires addressing what's unreal, "race," the arbitrary and artificial construct racists use to categorically alienate and prejudice groups of people they call others, which being arbitrary and artificial can be anything since race exists only in the eye of the racist beholder. Therefore, if in a person's eye race is beheld as one's nationality, then prejudices that person holds against people because of their nationality would be considered racist, and that has very, very often been the case, a perfect example being:

The Yugoslav wars when those born in the nation of Serbia believed in a Serbian race and those from the other side of an arbitrarily line drawn in the sand in Croatia were of a Croatian race that was inferior, even subhuman, and so pollutant that they needed to be genocided, all wiped off the face of the Earth, despite their being absolutely zero genotypical or phenotypical differences between those of the so-called "Serbian" race and those of the so-called "Croatian" race, meaning they not had no discernable physical features that made them different from one another but didn't even have any genetic differences that did, the two groups even speaking the same language, nationality being the sole basis of their racism, the war and the attempted genocide of Croatians being born entirely out of prejudices people held against people because of their nationality, which very much was considered racist by the whole world, including by the Serbian racists who were committing these atrocities and were quite proud of it, because that's exactly what it was: racsist.

Therefore, it is an undeniable fact, even a historical fact, that a person who holds prejudices against people because of their nationality may be considered racist.

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