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What Is the Difference Between Race and Color?

Discrimination laws are sometimes a little confusing. They use terms that may not have the same meaning you would normally assign to them. A good example of this is the definition of the term race versus the word color. These terms may seem to cover the same thing, but they do not under discrimination laws. As an employee or employer in California, it is important that you understand the differences in the terms.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains race discrimination and color discrimination apply to two different types of discrimination. Race covers the characteristics of a race that people commonly associate with that race. This might be physical characteristics but it may also be genetic characteristics. For example, sickle-cell anemia occurs mostly in African Americans, so it is an identifying characteristic of that race.

Color covers the pigmentation of the skin. It may include people of the same race who have different skin tones. This happens in all races where not everyone has the exact same color of skin. This protection helps to prevent discrimination against those with certain levels of pigmentation. This may happen even among people of the same race. Color and race discrimination may occur at the same time but are also independent concepts.

Keep in mind that race and color discrimination apply to everyone. You do not have to be a part of a minority to exercise your rights against this type of discrimination. The EEOC looks at all claims equally and places the burden of proof on the accused in every case. This information is for education and is not legal advice.

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