Racism is the belief that a particular race is inferior or superior to another and that a person's biological characteristics predetermine his or her moral or social traits. Those who hold racist beliefs can see other races as less worthy, and in extreme cases even subhuman. Racism can have many different forms and manifest itself in many different ways, typically influenced by various cultural, religious, economic, or historical factors.
Racism throughout history
Racism has existed throughout human history. Racism has influenced wars, slavery, legal codes, the rise and fall of nations, and (perhaps most importantly) the daily lives of untold millions—arguably billions—of people.
Racism displayed by Western powers towards non-Westerners in the 20th century has particularly impacted history, most notoriously in the forced enslavement of millions of Africans. In the United States, slavery was the primary cause for the Civil War. Moreover, racism continues to reverberate in the modern U.S. in events such as the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020-21 protests over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The Challenge of Measuring Racism
Measuring the racial tolerance of a country is difficult to do accurately. Racism is not a simple number, such as population or average income. Racism has many forms, and it is entirely possible for a person, social group, culture, or country to be at peace with one race or situation, but completely intolerant of another. For example, a caucasian person who has no problem living next to an Asian neighbor could have major objections to a black person marrying into their family. Moreover, because most survey respondents are generally aware that racism is not particularly admired in today's society, the truthfulness and honesty of survey responses can be difficult to verify.
As a result of these complications, researchers typically rely upon surveys to collect information about the public consciousness. They then combine multiple questions, surveys, or studies to determine a country's true level of racial tolerance.
The World Values Survey is an international research program that studies "social, political, economic, religious and cultural values" including racial tolerance and racism. The WVS survey asks respondents from more than 80 countries dozens of questions, including one that asked respondents to identify types of people they would not want as neighbors. The more people of a particular country responded that they would be happy to have a neighbor of a different race, the more racially tolerant the respondents' country would be considered.
The annual Best Countries report, a joint effort of U.S. News and World Report, the BAV Group, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, added specific questions about racial tolerance for its 2021 report, which surveyed more than 17,000 people across 78 countries.
The Top 10 Least Racist Countries in the World in 2021 - Best Countries Report
Generally, the most tolerant countries in both studies were Scandinavian countries, Latin countries, and the United Kingdom and its former colonies (Australia, Canada, and New Zealand). In contrast, the least racially tolerant countries (Qatar, Serbia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka) tended to be located in Africa and Asia.
There were also outliers. For example, although other former U.K. colonies landed near the top of the list, the United States ranked 69th out of 78 countries in 2020, thanks in large part to what is often seen as institutionalized racism in areas including employment, education, and the criminal justice system. On the other hand, Pakistan has several factors that typically coincide with racial intolerance, such as low economic and human indices and notable sectarian violence; however, only 6.5% of Pakistanis objected to a neighbor of a different race.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is a United Nations convention committed to the elimination of racial discrimination. All parties of the Convention are required to outlaw hate speech and criminalize membership in racist organizations.
For the full ranked list of all 78 countries in the Best Countries survey, see the table below.