FIFA World Cup winner Lilian Thuram said at the Peace and Sport Forum here that attitudes towards racism in Europe have not changed since he arrived at Italian club Parma in 1996.
The Frenchman questioned the attitude of authorities towards the problem, saying: "Why don't the leaders take action?"
Football's world governing body came under-fire for their decision last year to disband their anti-racism task force, with secretary general Fatma Samoura claiming their work had been "completed".
"Usually it is because it [racism] does not change their lives and they are not affected," Thuram said.
"The problem with racism is that, when you are not a victim, you think it does not exist.
"Racism is deeply rooted in European society and, for the last 20 years, the same people have been discriminated against: people with black skin, Jewish people and homosexuals.
"The victims in this are not able to change the mentality [of racists].
"When FIFA disbanded its anti-racism taskforce, it sent a message of negativity.
"FIFA continues to speak out against racism but it would be nice if they pushed the message more as FIFA has the power to reach millions of people.
"It would be great if, one day, somebody heard the name 'FIFA' and would immediately think about its fight against discrimination.
"It would be easy to stop racism in football.
"If a white footballer leaves the field when there is a racist incident, it would make a huge impact.
"As football is a business, people would find solutions."
When asked about whether he was optimistic about the future, Thuram seemed doubtful.
"We are now in a situation where people accept that thousands die in the Mediterranean Sea every day," he said.
"We have to be realistic about the fact that the European Union is paying Libya to prevent refugees from coming over.
"We need to accept the reality.
"FIFA and world football do things to stop racism, but it is not their top priority."
The World Cup winner, now aged 45, then spoke about his foundation, Foundation Lilian Thuram.
"First of all, we must talk about racism and show pictures that prove it exists," he said.
"Seeing somebody as black is an invention of western culture.
"In fact, I tell children 'I'm not black and you're not white.'"
Thuram, who won the World Cup in 1998 with France and also played for Monaco, Juventus and Barcelona, demonstrated a game that he plays with children.
He held a blank piece of paper next to a white journalist's face, showing that they were not the same colour.
"To really fight racism, we should ask real questions," he said.
"Very often we do not question ourselves.
"Putting it simply, every man should question why women are seen as inferior, not just sexists.
"About football, we do not ask these questions, and this is why there is no improvement."