Discrimination and how it hinders development

Photo from the Women's March 2019 in Kuala Lampur. Source: Unsplash
Photo from the Women's March 2019 in Kuala Lampur.

Many advancements have been made in the 21st century. Arguably, the most revolutionary one of these inventions is the internet—the internet revolutionized the way we go about our businesses and also opened up a portal for people all over the world to connect from right where they are.

The internet has done many wonderful things, one of them being shining a light on what is arguably the biggest issue that faces the human race – discrimination. Discrimination is the “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favour of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit [1].

It includes the treatment of an individual or group, based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or social category, ‘in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated’ [2]. Discrimination restricts members of a group from opportunities or privileges available to another group leading to exclusion. There are many types of discrimination, including but not limited to discrimination due to race/ethnicity, nationality/origin, religion/lack thereof, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, and caste/financial disposition.

Discrimination hinders development. Firstly, it disrupts peace. One of the biggest forms of discrimination is racism [3]. According to the FBI 2018 hate crime statistics, 59.6% of hate crimes were racially motivated [4]. In the US, for instance, there are active hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. Also in the US, black men are far much more likely to be shot and killed by the police than white men [5], black men are far much more likely to receive longer and heavier sentences than white men in a ruling for the same crime [6], blacks consistently earn less than whites [7] and black women are routinely raped, beaten and killed by the police [8]. Further, across the world, darker-skinned people are more likely to experience discrimination than lighter-skinned people in what is known as colourism [9].

At times race, ethnicity, nationality and origin are grouped together in that they are similar, though not same, and that issues concerning these factors have a high potential to become a full-scale war or conflict, with examples being the American Civil War, the war against apartheid in South Africa, the 2016 xenophobic attacks in South Africa, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Sudan genocide, the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just to name a few.

Moving away from race, tension and war have also been noted to arise due to religion. There are about 4200 different religions in the world, with Christianity and Islam being the two most popular ones. Most religions believe that they're the one true religion while the rest are false.

On the other hand, atheists believe that all religions are false. This has brought forth a lot of heated debates between theists and atheists, and between theists themselves. In some countries, being an atheist is punishable by death [10]. In many places, people belonging to religious minorities face significant difficulties and persecution [11]. Further, many terrorist groups have been blamed on religious extremists. The most notable examples of Islamic extremism include Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, Taliban, Boko Haram and ISIS. According to SALON, the Army of God in the U.S., Eastern Lightning in China, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, the National Liberation Front of Tripura in India, the Phineas Priesthood in the U.S (greatly influenced by the Ku Klux Klan) and the Concerned Christians in the U.S are the top 6 modern-day Christian terror groups [12].

There’s also sex and gender-based violence such as rape and domestic abuse. Women are more likely to be raped and/or suffer domestic abuse than men are [13]. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, equating to more than 10 million women and men in a year [13]. Additionally, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped in their lifetime [13]. Most rapists are never convicted [14].

Secondly, discrimination is an enemy of economic development and prosperity. Discrimination in the workplace results in low productivity, which in turn drives the economy backwards. According to the International Labor Organization, women are by the most discriminated in the workplace, with the pay gap between the sexes still significant in most countries [15]. Women of colour make even fewer earnings than white women [16]. The gender pay gap is even worse for mothers as they face the motherhood penalty [17]. Furthermore, the gender pay gap grows with age [18]. Most countries have tried improving on this by educating more girls and women. However, even though education helps increase women’s earnings, it still doesn’t close the gender pay gap—the reason the gender pay gap exists, sexism, has to be eradicated.

Discrimination also plays a big role in global poverty [19]. This is because inequality in opportunity leads to underdevelopment in the areas that experience this discrimination. For instance, being denied citizenship due to some discriminatory reason such as religious affiliation restricts one’s access to employment, education, and other opportunities [19]. Africans are the most likely to be denied student visas [20], and African scientists and researchers are routinely denied visas to attend conferences, denying them opportunities to present their work and collaborate with their peers [21]. This denies Africans economic opportunities. In the US, black people were driven into poverty by being denied basic rights such as education, ownership of property, business licensing and segregation [22].

Thirdly, discrimination affects the health of its victims. Increasing evidence indicates that racial discrimination is an emerging risk factor for disease and a contributor to racial disparities in health [23]. Victims of discrimination have been shown to have high cortisol levels and other hormone imbalances, a situation which leads to the disruption of immune, reproductive and cardiovascular systems [24]. It also leads to stress [25] which leads to the development of stress-related illnesses such as diabetes, depression, anxiety, headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, ulcers, chronic heartburn, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, accelerated ageing and premature death [26]. It doesn't help that discrimination is prevalent in healthcare systems either, so people go without getting the care that they need. Victims of discrimination have also been shown to have low self-esteem and confidence [27].

Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) being proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, discrimination is still prevalent in many societies today. Global leaders have failed to enforce the UDHR into law. Also needed are reeducation and reintegration. Most education systems do not seek to address issues such as intrapersonal awareness and interpersonal skills. It is, therefore, necessary to reform our education systems in order to include such things and to create awareness over such issues. Furthermore, prejudices are taught and learnt. Therefore, we must ensure that we are not teaching said prejudices. Additionally, we must embark on the journey of unlearning the prejudices we have learnt and tearing down all the institutions built upon those prejudices.


1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination

2. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/american-english/discriminat…

3. https://mic.com/articles/140107/racism-in-america-today-is-alive-and-we…

4. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2018/topic-pages/victims

5. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/after-ferguson-black-men-and-boys-s…

6. https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/11/17/16668770/us-sentencing-commis…

7. https://www.epi.org/publication/state-of-american-wages-2018/

8. https://www.nfg.org/news/sayhername-resisting-police-brutality-against-…

9. https://quillette.com/2019/02/13/the-origins-of-colourism/

10. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/the-13-countries-where-being-a… 11. http://justice.crcna.org/religious-persecution-overview

12. http://www.salon.com/2015/04/07/6_modern_day_christian_terrorist_groups…

13. https://ncadv.org/statistics

14. https://www.economist.com/international/2020/01/04/why-so-few-rapists-a…

15. http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

16. https://iwpr.org/publications/gender-wage-gap-2018/

17. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/25/the-motherhood-penalty-costs-women-1600…

18. https://wol.iza.org/news/gender-pay-gap-exists-increases-with-age

19. http://borgenproject.org/discrimination-affects-global-poverty/

20. https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20190918083843313

21. https://www.wired.com/story/african-ai-experts-get-excluded-from-a-conf…

22. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2012/12/10/how-home-o…

23. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1475-6773.13222

24. http://theconversation.com/discrimination-is-bad-for-your-health-and-yo…

25. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/impact

26. https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2014/stress-and-disease…

27. https://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/discrimination-can-be-harmful-to-your…