To discriminate (derived from Latin: discriminare) means to separate or differentiate. Discrimination (also: disadvantaging, exclusion, unequal treatment) means treating one person less well than others because of a certain feature or an association with a certain group.
The discrimination of people because of features such as ethnic or national origin, skin colour, language, political or religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, age or disability is called social discrimination. According ideologies (racism, sexism, anti-Semitism etc.) and unequal power structures support the enforcement of discrimination within society.
Discrimination means exclusion from material resources, political and societal participation as well as denial of acknowledgement, respect and interest. Social discrimination can take different shapes: avoiding contact, insults, psychological and physical violence, disadvantages in the access to goods and positions, legal exclusion, personal disparagement etc. The fundamental mechanism of discrimination is always the same: differentiate – disparage – treat less well.
Discrimination can occur in various areas of life. In everyday life, language, access to education and vocational training, on the labour and housing market, in the health and assurance sector, in political participation and media representation. Discriminations can also be separated by individual, institutional and cultural-discursive exclusions.