Some countries are very accepting and welcoming of people of different races, ethnicities, and nationalities. Others are less so. Racism is a challenging variable to measure. Many countries lack centralized systems for tracking incidents of racism. In fact, a surprising number of countries don't even track the race and ethnicity of their citizens, which makes it nigh impossible to track racist activities against them. As a result, researchers typically turn to more grass-roots methods, such as personal surveys—and although racism may not seem like a very complex trait, it can be quite challenging to determine if a person is racist or not based on a simple questionnaire. All of which is to say: Determining the most racist countries in the world is a daunting task, and the results might be inconsistent from one study to the next.
Study One: Best Countries Report 2020
The annual Best Countries Report, a 78-country survey carried out by the U.S. News and World Report, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, added questions about racial equality in 2020. This is relevant because racism is a root cause of poor racial equality. The final rankings are as follows:
Worst Countries for Racial Equality:
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
- United States
It's relevant to note that many of these countries have a large percentage of native-born residents and relatively few immigrants and international residents. The next section will explain why this is an important factor.
Study Two: Washington Post (2013) and Business Tech (2016) studies
Two different and independent racism studies conducted in recent years surveyed a combined 85,000 people from 61 countries and achieved results that were different from the BCR2020, but parallel to one another.
The first was a Washington Post survey from 2013. The main question posed to each participant was whether they would be comfortable living near neighbors of a different race. The second project was a 2016 survey by Business Tech, which questioned if people had ever witnessed or personally experienced racism.
Though neither study is generally considered definitive on its own—especially given a relatively small sampling of only 61 of the globe's 200+ countries—when merged, they can give a better impression of the prevalence of racism. In this format, India emerged as the most racist country surveyed, followed by Lebanon, Bahrain, Libya, and Egypt.
Most Racist Countries in the World (WaPo and BT results combined)*:
- South Africa
- South Korea
*Full survey results below
India ranks as the most racist of the countries included in the study. Located in southern Asia, India is the second-most-populous country on Earth, with roughly 1.3 billion people. According to the surveys, the country's residents display considerable intolerance for people with darker skin, whether they are of foreign descent (particularly African) or simply darker-skinned Indians. India has little immigration and few international residents. As a result, most of its people are of Indian descent themselves. This detail is considered to be a major contributing factor to racism in India. When one is unaccustomed to seeing or interacting with people of different races, it is often more difficult to integrate with someone of a different nationality or ethnicity. This notion is borne out in the survey results. Approximately 43.6% of all Indians who took the survey said that they would not be comfortable with neighbors who were of a different culture, ethnicity, or race. 64.3% of Indian participants also reported that they were either discriminated against or had witnessed discrimination unfold in their home country.
Although its population is split nearly fifty-fifty between Christians and Muslims, Lebanon is another country comprised primarily of people who share a similar ethnic background. This low level of diversity means Lebanon's citizens are typically opposed to mingling with people of other races for the sole reason that they are not used to doing so in a day-by-day setting. Third on the list of most racist countries is Bahrain, a country in the Persian Gulf and just off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Nearly 50% of people in Bahrain are of Bahraini descent, and Indians make up the highest percentile of immigrants. Bahrain scored 31.1% and 85.7% as part of the studies in discussion.
Libya follows Bahrain in fourth place. The majority of people in Libya are Arabic. Other ethnic groups included in Libya's population are Tunisians, Egyptians, Dawada, Italians, Maltese, Greeks, Pakistanis, Turks, and Indians. The study found that 54% of people in Libya's group would not be okay with living next door to people of another race, whereas 39.7% of the population said that they've either been the victim or witness discriminatory behavior in Libya. Egypt comes in at five.People born and raised in Egypt account for 91% of its population, with the remaining 9% made up of Bedouins, Abazas, Turks, and Greeks. The studies' findings for Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Lebanon are in alignment with the ones regarding India.