Any countries left with racist laws on the books?

South Africa’s apartheid policies were scrapped in 1994. No doubt racist attitudes continue to fester there and elsewhere, but are there any countries left that still have similar explicitly racist laws on the books?

How widespread would your criteria be? Something equivalent to Jim Crow or Apartheid that affects the whole culture? Or just any laws that discriminate based on race?

No cites, but I thought the rights of non-native Japanese residents were fairly well proscribed in Japanese law. Especially in matters of rights to own/rent property. There are several Dopers living in Japan, though, so a better answer regarding Japan may be forthcoming.

Yeah, it really depends on how you define “race”, and how you define “discrimination”. Is any law that involves differential treatment based on ethnicity a “racist law”?

India, for example, has legal measures in place intended to counteract the traditional disadvantages of the so-called “Scheduled Castes” and “Scheduled Tribes”. The latter at least would mostly count as distinct ethnic groups. I personally don’t think that affirmative action for historically disadvantaged minority groups counts as “racism”, but some people disagree.

Israel has a number of laws relating to its identity as a “Jewish state”, which are ipso facto ethnically discriminatory if Judaism counts as an ethnicity, which is somewhat debatable. E.g., the Law of Return entitles non-Israeli Jews but not non-Jews to expedited access to Israeli citizenship. As of 2014, the “Admissions Committees Law” permits Israeli municipalities to reject (Israeli citizen) applicants for residency based on, among other things, their “social suitability”. This can be used to discriminate against Israeli Arabs or African immigrants but also against other characteristics such as being gay, being secular, being religious, or whatever else the admissions committee considers “socially unsuitable”. So I’m not sure that it would count as specifically racial discrimination per se.

There’s also the question of whether the OP was restricting the subject to state laws that explicitly discriminate based on ethnicity, as opposed to laws that merely facilitate discrimination by non-state actors. If Judaism is an ethnicity, as I said before, then the Law of Return would be in the former category and the Admissions Committees Law would be in the latter.

The question of whether various indigenous peoples are systematically or legally discriminated against (as opposed to “just” marginalized or exploited) by various governments worldwide, including China and Bangladesh, is a very complex one. I think the OP has to clarify exactly what s/he means by “racist laws”.

Technically, though, AFAIK, that’s discrimination based on citizenship status, not ethnicity.

Take a country like Malaysia:

You can find more examples by reading:

That sounds more like an affirmative action policy to uplift an underclass then apartheid style discrimination.

The OP can clarify but i don’t think that is what he was looking for.

I wasn’t thinking of “affirmative action” style laws that are intended to help disadvantaged minorities. More the opposite: I’m thinking of laws that say this minority has certain rights and privileges (e.g. can vote, can live in this part of town, can use this public bathroom), and that minority does not.

The former. I’m sure there are many countries that don’t proscribe racial discrimination by non-state actors.

When I was in Qatar, the tour guide told us that there were only about 300,000 Qatari citizens, and they each got close to $100k per year in income and benefits, representing their share of the government-owned oil company’s profits. But there are several million (going by memory – about five million?) workers in the country that serve those citizens’ needs. So there are several million Filipinos, Pakistanis, Indians, etc who are basically treated as a permanent underclass in Qatar. Does that count as racist, since the underclass is technically all non-citizens?

Furthermore, how about a country like the US, which has immigration quotas? The quota for Mexican immigrants to the US is zero. (This doesn’t count wives and family members of citizens, nor H1B visas, but still.) That sounds quite racist to me, but almost everyone in the US supports our restrictive immigration laws.

If a law that discriminates based on where your ancestors were born is racist, how is it not racist to make a law that discriminates based on where you personally were born?

I doubt that there are any countries that explicitly legislate wide-ranging discrimination on the basis of race in a manner comparable to apartheid.

Sadly there are numerous communities in many countries that are the recipient of varying degrees of systemic and institutional oppression and discrimination.

The United States has a long history, up to and including the present, of having a whole lot of laws decreeing one kind of special treatment or another to Native American tribes and individuals. These laws were often seen and intended as some kind of “protective” or “beneficial” towards the Native Americans (well, at least from the paleface point-of-view). ISTM that Native Americans themselves didn’t always agree, and saw a lot of those laws as being paternalistic. In the earlier days of US relations with Indians, there were lots of formal attempts to forcibly assimilate Indians into the Eurocentric-American culture and lifestyle.

I don’t really know any specifics. But Wikipedia has this page: Outline of United States federal Indian law and policy, which is just a compendium of cites and links to other sources on specific laws and policies.

That’s a bit of a grey area. I worked for an indian tribe for a couple of years. From what I could tell while being an employee, the US government allows a tribe/nation to discriminate in favor of its own tribal members or members of other tribes without running afoul of civil rights laws. For example, a tribe can hire a less-qualified job applicant if that person is also if indian blood. So you could say that the US government isn’t being racist, it’s allowing the tribe (which is itself a recognized sovereign nation) to be racist within US borders.

Also that definitely qualifies as affirmative action, it’s not quite what the OP was looking for.

If denying citizenship to certain races is a form of “racism”, there are many African countries that do that. For example, in Liberia, citizenship through naturalisation is governed by Chapter 21 of the Aliens and Nationality Law. The eligibility requirements for naturalisation includes:

The applicant must be “a Negro or of Negro descent.”

While Israel always gets discussed in this context, many countries have some form of a “right of return” for various reasons (as, for example, “A person of Bulgarian origin shall acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a facilitated procedure.”). Here’s a list.

Generally, though, that kind of “right of return” to Nation-State X applies to individuals descended from identifiable citizens of Nation-State X.

Israel did not exist as a nation-state with a Jewish identity for well over 2000 years. Many modern Jews who are legally entitled to the Israeli “right of return” are not even descended from Jewish inhabitants of the ancient Jewish lands, but rather from converts joining Jewish communities during the diaspora. A comparable situation would be a modern British person claiming Italian citizenship on the grounds that he’s descended from British ancestors who were awarded Roman citizenship after the Roman conquest of Britain.

So no, I don’t think it’s persuasive to try to equate the Israeli Law of Return for Jews in general with right-of-return laws for identified descendants of citizens of a particular nationality. Whether one can accurately describe the former as a strictly racial form of discrimination, as I noted, is another matter.

Not really. Look at the list.

To give but one example, the “overseas Chinese” have no more “descent from a nation-state” that Jews do to ancient Israel: in some cases, their families have been living “overseas” for centuries.

You can argue that Jews are sorta less linked (more centuries?), but that sounds like angels-dancing-on-heads-of-pins rationalization. By any reasonable estimate, someone whose distant ancestors (or at least, some of them) sailed to (say) Indonesia from South China five hundred years ago isn’t a “Chinese Citizen”. Nor are they likely not to have intermarried with locals to at least some degree.

Similarly, look at Germany. Their ‘right of return’ applies to persons of German descent living in the former Soviet Union. Many of those persons may have had ancestors (at least some) who lived in what is now “Germany” - long before Germany was, in fact, even a state. How can it be plausibly argued they are “citizens”?

From the link:

Emphasis added.

Why stop there? Look at Greece.

Emphasis added.

That is different, how? Diaspora communities that have been outside of Greece for “centuries or millennia” - why, that sounds pretty similar.

Israel isn’t even the only country that has a “right of return” as a result of a historic diaspora specific to Jews!

Spain does as well - for descendants of Shephardic Jews (expelled from Spain in the 15th century):

They also have one for distant descendant - related countries (though less generous):

In short, your position isn’t based on what the laws actually say. Lots of countries have similar laws to Israel - or at least, I can’t see a logical way to differentiate them. It is neither the most lengthy separation from the “mother country” - that award surely goes to Greece; nor even that it involves Jews ‘who may be converts’ - that goes for Spain as well.

Greece is perhaps the most similar situation to Israel, given that there arguably wasn’t a “Greece” for many centuries, as opposed to a particular region of the Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire or the Ottoman Empire.

Likewise, as far as cultural and political realities go, there wasn’t an “Israel” during the time between the Roman Empire and the twentieth century. For most of the intervening period, the ancient Jewish lands were even far less Jewish than the ancient Greek lands were Greek, if you see what I mean.

But in both cases, a recently established nation-state has defined itself as the revival of an ancient one, and drawn on an ancient identity as the basis for its modern one. This isn’t really comparable to the situation in, say, China or Spain.

My last post was pretty fuzzy, let me see if I can express myself more clearly now I’ve thought about it more.

AFAICT, the difference that’s relevant to this discussion of laws imposing (arguably) racial discrimination is that Israel’s Law of Return is neither about a specific community being offered reparations by a continuous national entity (as in the case of Spain and Sephardic Jews), nor about the descendants in general of a particular homeland (as in the case of your other examples).

If Israel had a Law of Return for all the land’s former inhabitants and those descended from them, Palestinians as well as Jews, then it would be analogous to the other “rights of return” that you mention.

E.g., Germany, as you noted, offers its “right of return” to people whose ancestral homeland was variously part of the Hapsburg Empire, or imperial Germany, or the Third Reich, or the German Democratic Republic, or the Federal Republic of Germany (Weimar or modern). China and Greece likewise accept non-citizens as innately “Chinese” or “Greek” respectively if they have ancestral ties to that homeland, regardless of what that homeland’s political structure happened to be at the time when their ancestors left.

But Israel is defining its concept of “ancestral homeland” specifically to exclude the vast majority of people who have actually been native to its land, or descended from natives of its land, for the past two thousand years and more. Even Palestinians (and descendants thereof) who were living in that homeland within the past seventy years, on the same lands where their ancestors had lived for generations and centuries, are barred by Israeli law from the kind of “return” status we’re talking about.

That’s a pretty major differentiation. I get the pragmatic demographic arguments that are behind the modern Israeli state’s decision to limit so draconically the category of people legally entitled to return to their homeland within its borders, but there’s no denying that it significantly separates the Israeli situation from other “right of return” laws.

Now, the question relevant to this thread is whether that kind of exclusion counts as specifically racial discrimination; as I said before, that depends on whether Judaism is considered a specifically “racial” category, which is debatable at best.

That sounds much more unambiguously like what the OP was asking about. I’m puzzled by the allusion to “many” African countries having the same sort of restriction, though. Which countries besides Liberia (whose racial criteria for citizenship were constitutionally established back in 1847 and strongly influenced by contemporary white American views on racial separatism) specify such restrictions?

Liberia is an interesting case. Americo-Liberians (descendants of slaves from USA) form the political and cultural elite, despite numbering only about 200 000 out of a population of 4.5 million. With the exception of Samuel Doe -who came to power through a military coup - since 1878 all presidents have been Americo-Liberians.

I don’t know nearly enough to contribute further other than to point out that a nation that is dominated by one minority ethnic group for a prolonged period of time, may well have more explicit and more far-reaching examples of legislative discrimination beyond citizenship restrictions.

Sure. But I do think Israel is a special case.

Most states have to grapple with the acquisition of citizenship. There are generally two major principles that come into play; jus soli, the idea that you acquire citizenship based on the place where you are born, or jus sanguinis, the idea that you inherit citizenship from your parents. Most countries apply some combination of the two concepts - e.g. you are a citizen of X if you are born in X or if either of your parents is a citizen of X. And you can tweak this in various ways e.g. birth in X only qualifies you if your mother is lawfully in X at the time, or is entitled to remain permanently in X at the time (isn’t, e.g., on a tourist trip). Or, you only inherit citizenship of X if your father is a citizen. Or if both your parents are citizens. Or if you have at least one grandparent who is a citizen.

This mix-and-match is made easier by the fact that the two principle will typically overlap to a very large degree. The great bulk of people who are born in the US will in fact be born to US citizens, and the great bulk of people who are born to US citizens will in fact be born in the US. (The US is just an example here, you understand, but this is true for a great many countries.)

This overlap enables us to overlook the fact that citizenship rules typically operate in a way which advantages people of one ethnicity. Even if you ignore jus sanguinis altogether and apply a strict jus soli rule, the great bulk of people who are born in (say) Finland will be ethnic Finns and the ethnic character of the body of citizens will be largely preserved over generations. Is this racist legislation? Obviously not formally; the legislation doesn’t refer to race or ethnicity at all. But it works in practice to preference people of a particular ethnicity. And if the legislation also mentioned descent, as the citizenship legislation of most countries does at some point, then the case for saying, look, this is ethnically-preferential legislation is fairly strong.

The thing is, most people will accept that when it comes to defining and identifying the nation, ethnicity is a relevant characteristic. The salient characteristic of the French is that they are, well, French. And Frenchness, like any nationality, is a cultural construct which is largely transmitted from generation to generation. What mainly makes someone French is being born to and raised by French parents in a French household. It seems unreasonable to expect French (or any other) citizenship law to ignore this, and they typically don’t. And we don’t consider that racist.

Right. Israel is a special case. It’s a Jewish state. Treating Jewishness as an ethnicity, it’s unusual in that for a long time - for centuries - there was, basically, no country in which it was the majority ethnicity. So a jus soli citizenship rule was never going to operate, as it does so conveniently for most countries, to align the legal construct of citizenship with the cultural phenomenon of ethnicity. Hence Israel has to lay more stress on the jus sanguinis principle of citizenship than most other countries do in order to acheive the same outcome that most other countries acheive.

Israel certainly hasn’t abandoned the jus soli principle. I’m open to correction, but so far as I know birth in Israel itself qualifies someone for Isreali citizenship on terms that would be similar to those applying in many other countries. Ethnicity or religion doesn’t enter into it. Likewise, rules about acquisition of citizenship by descent are similar - if you’re born to an Israeli citizen, the consequences are fairly analogous to those of being born to an American citizen.

The difference arises when it comes to acquiring citizenship by naturalisation. Here, Jews enjoy a marked and explicit preference. The understanding of “Jew” for this purpose is interesting, because it doesn’t quite align with the religious understanding (male-line descendants qualify) but it also isn’t ethnic (converts to Judaism qualify). But, regardless of the details, the class of people preferenced by this rule will mostly comprise ethnic Jews in much the way that, in other countries, the class of people preferenced by a jus soli rule will mostly comprise a particular ethnicity.

Kimstu makes the point that others descended from people born in the place that is now Israel do not enjoy a similar preference; true. But in fact the preference enjoyed by ethnic Jews is not based on their being descended from someone born in that territory (and as we know there is controversy over the extend to which Jews are in fact so descended); it’s explicitly based on their being Jewish, and it’s tied to the fact that Israel is explicitly conceived as a national homeland for the Jewish people. You might argue that the whole idea of a national state is inherently racist, but if it is Israel is hardly the only offender. But if you allow the concept of the national state, then I don’t think Israeli citizenship laws are racist, or at an rate they are not more racist than the citizenship laws of other national states. Sure, they operate to preference a particular ethnicity, but so do the others.