Institutional Discrimination: Traditional and Modern Types

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 4
Words: 1126
Reading time:
5 min

Discrimination is a treatment expressed in the form of harmful actions against minority groups. It can happen almost anywhere, and the minorities may be oppressed for gender, race, social status, religion, and other aspects. Intolerance may occur with individuals but also can be at an organizational or institutional level. Institutional discrimination is the type of differentiation by a particular feature maintained by administrative laws and traditions. This paper will analyze how modern and traditional institutional discrimination differs and which role affirmative action plays. It is crucial to examine the distinction between two types of discrimination and the relation of affirmative action to grasp the differentiation of intolerance in society.

Institutional discrimination is related to prejudices and practices in institutions that lead to oppressing the resources and abilities of oppressed groups. It is important to note that this type differs from individual discrimination (CrashCourse, 2017). For example, individual intolerance suggests a single person discriminate against another human or minority group. On the contrary, institutional discrimination differentiates and oppresses people and happens in educational organizations, schools, universities, and other agencies. For instance, if Black and white people are obliged to visit different schools – this is an expression of institutional discrimination.

The roots of institutional discrimination lay in the early 1990s, when the era of globalization started. The economic background started to flourish; science and technology developed rapidly and required new talents. At the same time, many women began to receive a higher education, but they still were not seen as true professionals. Women’s input into science was systematically undervalued, as men dominated the field of science for a long time (Tong, 2021). Various feminist studies strived to solve this problem; however, women faced difficulties at workplaces, and people underestimated them as experts. For instance, men did not let females take higher positions; women’s merits could even be excluded from scientific and academic spheres. It is one of the multiple examples of discriminating discrimination against women in the professional environment. Gender discrimination is one of the forms of institutional discrimination which can happen to people.

Institutional discrimination may occur within various institutions and might be confirmed by corporate laws. For instance, children may be segregated at schools and educational organizations by features of skin color. Institutional discrimination represents and creates inequalities in groups and undermines the economic and social statuses of the oppressed group (Pap, 2017). It often happens at workplaces and sometimes may be hard to define. What is more, discriminated groups might work for long years within a specific company and may not notice that they are offended. For instance, managers can assign various unpleasant tasks to members of determined groups.

Moreover, the workplace may be organized in the way of segregation by religion, ethnicity, and race. Unfair and unequal payments may also occur to people who complete similar tasks and share homogenous responsibilities. For example, white and non-white people will receive various salaries undertaking the same position. It is worth noting that the company might not conceal the discrimination at the workplace, as the company’s laws and norms are documented in their policies.

Harassment is related to a form of institutional discrimination as well. Discrimination at workplaces and offending minority groups by gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, gender, race, and other features are fundamental in many organizations (Pap, 2017). Moreover, people may stay at the workplace and suffer offense because they do not want to lose their position or status. There is an issue of discriminating against minority groups in various companies, sometimes even on the stage of employment.

However, the thing is that people attempted to overcome traditional discrimination, and there were multiple policies created to diminish the oppression within minority groups. For example, the meeting organized by the city council in Hungary in 2008 strived to fight against violence at workplaces after the case of harassment (Pap, 2017). Besides, there are multiple meetings and movements organized in support of violence victims. Institutional discrimination draws considerable attention to itself; people became aware of this issue and attempted to overcome it through various protective practices and actions.

The modern form of discrimination suggests that there is no severe ethnic, racial, or religious discrimination within the society. Modern prejudice assumes to blame the victim and turn the responsibility of discrimination over the minority group. If there are some racial and ethnic disparities remain, this is the fault of the minority group. In addition, affirmative action for minority groups is not justified. For example, with the recent “Black Lives Matter” movement, some people became highly sensible to offense, especially in the workplace. As multiple sources inform, people can feel unsafe and consider the environment hostile if their colleague directly supports any minority movement (Marshburn et al., 2017). Some workers may even refer to their managers to stop promoting and distributing minority movements at workplaces.

It is connected with people’s unwillingness to be a part of these movements, and they become reluctant to join any of them. Therefore, the person who supports and promotes any minority can be discriminated against on the organizational level. The agency may even prohibit the distribution and promotion of any supporting movement from keeping other workers uncalm and unsafe. For instance, company managers may create some norm settings to forbid the distribution of discrimination variations (Hebl et al., 2020). Therefore, the person is blamed and discriminated against by supporting minorities, as other people take offense to it.

Affirmative action is a set of policies that attempt to extend opportunities for minority groups within educational and professional spheres. These practices strive to undermine inequalities between people and overcome issues of unequal treatment on the governmental and international levels (Hirschman & Berrey, 2017). Policies of affirmative action suggest the usage of specific quotas that are reserved for minority groups. In fighting against traditional institutional discrimination, affirmative action is effective in supporting minorities on a governmental level. People can appeal to governmental organizations and report mistreatment, and state laws, acts, and regulations will solve their problems. However, some countries consider affirmative action illegal and determine it to emphasize unequal treatment to all ethnicities and races. It may refer to modern institutional discrimination, where minority groups face disparities and mistreatment by a particular feature but are still blamed for supporting minority movements. Contemporary institutional discrimination suggests that minority groups invoke extraordinary attention to themselves, drawing unnecessary regard to their problems.

Overall, modern institutional discrimination differs significantly from traditional one; these two types are treated distinctively within society. If traditional institutional discrimination strongly emphasizes minority groups’ problems, its modern prototype tends to blame the minorities themselves. Minority groups are accused of unnecessary attention and overvalued issues according to modern institutional discrimination. It is why affirmative action may be unjustified compared to protection policies applied to previous discrimination cases.


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Hirschman, D., & Berrey, E. (2017). The partial deinstitutionalization of affirmative action in U.S. Higher Education, 1988 to 2014. Sociological Science, 4, 449–468.

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Pap, A. L. (2019). Harassment: A silver bullet to tackle institutional discrimination, but no panacea for all forms of dignity and equality harms. Intersections, 5(2), 11-35.

Tong, X. (2021). Gender segregation and institutional discrimination in professional fields. Career Patterns and Policies of Female Leaders in China, 263–283.