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10.2 The Meaning of Race and Ethnicity

Learning objectives.

  • Critique the biological concept of race.
  • Discuss why race is a social construction.
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a sense of ethnic identity.

To understand this problem further, we need to take a critical look at the very meaning of race and ethnicity in today’s society. These concepts may seem easy to define initially but are much more complex than their definitions suggest.

Let’s start first with race , which refers to a category of people who share certain inherited physical characteristics, such as skin color, facial features, and stature. A key question about race is whether it is more of a biological category or a social category. Most people think of race in biological terms, and for more than 300 years, or ever since white Europeans began colonizing populations of color elsewhere in the world, race has indeed served as the “premier source of human identity” (Smedley, 1998, p. 690).

It is certainly easy to see that people in the United States and around the world differ physically in some obvious ways. The most noticeable difference is skin tone: some groups of people have very dark skin, while others have very light skin. Other differences also exist. Some people have very curly hair, while others have very straight hair. Some have thin lips, while others have thick lips. Some groups of people tend to be relatively tall, while others tend to be relatively short. Using such physical differences as their criteria, scientists at one point identified as many as nine races: African, American Indian or Native American, Asian, Australian Aborigine, European (more commonly called “white”), Indian, Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian (Smedley, 1998).

Although people certainly do differ in the many physical features that led to the development of such racial categories, anthropologists, sociologists, and many biologists question the value of these categories and thus the value of the biological concept of race (Smedley, 2007). For one thing, we often see more physical differences within a race than between races. For example, some people we call “white” (or European), such as those with Scandinavian backgrounds, have very light skins, while others, such as those from some Eastern European backgrounds, have much darker skins. In fact, some “whites” have darker skin than some “blacks,” or African Americans. Some whites have very straight hair, while others have very curly hair; some have blonde hair and blue eyes, while others have dark hair and brown eyes. Because of interracial reproduction going back to the days of slavery, African Americans also differ in the darkness of their skin and in other physical characteristics. In fact it is estimated that about 80% of African Americans have some white (i.e., European) ancestry; 50% of Mexican Americans have European or Native American ancestry; and 20% of whites have African or Native American ancestry. If clear racial differences ever existed hundreds or thousands of years ago (and many scientists doubt such differences ever existed), in today’s world these differences have become increasingly blurred.

Another reason to question the biological concept of race is that an individual or a group of individuals is often assigned to a race on arbitrary or even illogical grounds. A century ago, for example, Irish, Italians, and Eastern European Jews who left their homelands for a better life in the United States were not regarded as white once they reached the United States but rather as a different, inferior (if unnamed) race (Painter, 2010). The belief in their inferiority helped justify the harsh treatment they suffered in their new country. Today, of course, we call people from all three backgrounds white or European.

In this context, consider someone in the United States who has a white parent and a black parent. What race is this person? American society usually calls this person black or African American, and the person may adopt the same identity (as does Barack Obama, who had a white mother and African father). But where is the logic for doing so? This person, as well as President Obama, is as much white as black in terms of parental ancestry. Or consider someone with one white parent and another parent who is the child of one black parent and one white parent. This person thus has three white grandparents and one black grandparent. Even though this person’s ancestry is thus 75% white and 25% black, she or he is likely to be considered black in the United States and may well adopt this racial identity. This practice reflects the traditional “one-drop rule” in the United States that defines someone as black if she or he has at least one drop of “black blood,” and that was used in the antebellum South to keep the slave population as large as possible (Wright, 1993). Yet in many Latin American nations, this person would be considered white. In Brazil, the term black is reserved for someone with no European (white) ancestry at all. If we followed this practice in the United States, about 80% of the people we call “black” would now be called “white.” With such arbitrary designations, race is more of a social category than a biological one.

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama had an African father and a white mother. Although his ancestry is equally black and white, Obama considers himself an African American, as do most Americans. In several Latin American nations, however, Obama would be considered white because of his white ancestry.

Steve Jurvetson – Barack Obama on the Primary – CC BY 2.0.

A third reason to question the biological concept of race comes from the field of biology itself and more specifically from the studies of genetics and human evolution. Starting with genetics, people from different races are more than 99.9% the same in their DNA (Begley, 2008). To turn that around, less than 0.1% of all the DNA in our bodies accounts for the physical differences among people that we associate with racial differences. In terms of DNA, then, people with different racial backgrounds are much, much more similar than dissimilar.

Even if we acknowledge that people differ in the physical characteristics we associate with race, modern evolutionary evidence reminds us that we are all, really, of one human race. According to evolutionary theory, the human race began thousands and thousands of years ago in sub-Saharan Africa. As people migrated around the world over the millennia, natural selection took over. It favored dark skin for people living in hot, sunny climates (i.e., near the equator), because the heavy amounts of melanin that produce dark skin protect against severe sunburn, cancer, and other problems. By the same token, natural selection favored light skin for people who migrated farther from the equator to cooler, less sunny climates, because dark skins there would have interfered with the production of vitamin D (Stone & Lurquin, 2007). Evolutionary evidence thus reinforces the common humanity of people who differ in the rather superficial ways associated with their appearances: we are one human species composed of people who happen to look different.

Race as a Social Construction

The reasons for doubting the biological basis for racial categories suggest that race is more of a social category than a biological one. Another way to say this is that race is a social construction , a concept that has no objective reality but rather is what people decide it is (Berger & Luckmann, 1963). In this view race has no real existence other than what and how people think of it.

This understanding of race is reflected in the problems, outlined earlier, in placing people with multiracial backgrounds into any one racial category. We have already mentioned the example of President Obama. As another example, the famous (and now notorious) golfer Tiger Woods was typically called an African American by the news media when he burst onto the golfing scene in the late 1990s, but in fact his ancestry is one-half Asian (divided evenly between Chinese and Thai), one-quarter white, one-eighth Native American, and only one-eighth African American (Leland & Beals, 1997).

Historical examples of attempts to place people in racial categories further underscore the social constructionism of race. In the South during the time of slavery, the skin tone of slaves lightened over the years as babies were born from the union, often in the form of rape, of slave owners and other whites with slaves. As it became difficult to tell who was “black” and who was not, many court battles over people’s racial identity occurred. People who were accused of having black ancestry would go to court to prove they were white in order to avoid enslavement or other problems (Staples, 1998). Litigation over race continued long past the days of slavery. In a relatively recent example, Susie Guillory Phipps sued the Louisiana Bureau of Vital Records in the early 1980s to change her official race to white. Phipps was descended from a slave owner and a slave and thereafter had only white ancestors. Despite this fact, she was called “black” on her birth certificate because of a state law, echoing the “one-drop rule,” that designated people as black if their ancestry was at least 1/32 black (meaning one of their great-great-great grandparents was black). Phipps had always thought of herself as white and was surprised after seeing a copy of her birth certificate to discover she was officially black because she had one black ancestor about 150 years earlier. She lost her case, and the U.S. Supreme Court later refused to review it (Omi & Winant, 1994).

Although race is a social construction, it is also true, as noted in an earlier chapter, that things perceived as real are real in their consequences. Because people do perceive race as something real, it has real consequences. Even though so little of DNA accounts for the physical differences we associate with racial differences, that low amount leads us not only to classify people into different races but to treat them differently—and, more to the point, unequally—based on their classification. Yet modern evidence shows there is little, if any, scientific basis for the racial classification that is the source of so much inequality.

Because of the problems in the meaning of race , many social scientists prefer the term ethnicity in speaking of people of color and others with distinctive cultural heritages. In this context, ethnicity refers to the shared social, cultural, and historical experiences, stemming from common national or regional backgrounds, that make subgroups of a population different from one another. Similarly, an ethnic group is a subgroup of a population with a set of shared social, cultural, and historical experiences; with relatively distinctive beliefs, values, and behaviors; and with some sense of identity of belonging to the subgroup. So conceived, the terms ethnicity and ethnic group avoid the biological connotations of the terms race and racial group and the biological differences these terms imply. At the same time, the importance we attach to ethnicity illustrates that it, too, is in many ways a social construction, and our ethnic membership thus has important consequences for how we are treated.

The sense of identity many people gain from belonging to an ethnic group is important for reasons both good and bad. Because, as we learned in Chapter 6 “Groups and Organizations” , one of the most important functions of groups is the identity they give us, ethnic identities can give individuals a sense of belonging and a recognition of the importance of their cultural backgrounds. This sense of belonging is illustrated in Figure 10.1 “Responses to “How Close Do You Feel to Your Ethnic or Racial Group?”” , which depicts the answers of General Social Survey respondents to the question, “How close do you feel to your ethnic or racial group?” More than three-fourths said they feel close or very close. The term ethnic pride captures the sense of self-worth that many people derive from their ethnic backgrounds. More generally, if group membership is important for many ways in which members of the group are socialized, ethnicity certainly plays an important role in the socialization of millions of people in the United States and elsewhere in the world today.

Figure 10.1 Responses to “How Close Do You Feel to Your Ethnic or Racial Group?”

Responses to

Source: Data from General Social Survey, 2004.

A downside of ethnicity and ethnic group membership is the conflict they create among people of different ethnic groups. History and current practice indicate that it is easy to become prejudiced against people with different ethnicities from our own. Much of the rest of this chapter looks at the prejudice and discrimination operating today in the United States against people whose ethnicity is not white and European. Around the world today, ethnic conflict continues to rear its ugly head. The 1990s and 2000s were filled with “ethnic cleansing” and pitched battles among ethnic groups in Eastern Europe, Africa, and elsewhere. Our ethnic heritages shape us in many ways and fill many of us with pride, but they also are the source of much conflict, prejudice, and even hatred, as the hate crime story that began this chapter so sadly reminds us.

Key Takeaways

  • Sociologists think race is best considered a social construction rather than a biological category.
  • “Ethnicity” and “ethnic” avoid the biological connotations of “race” and “racial.”

For Your Review

  • List everyone you might know whose ancestry is biracial or multiracial. What do these individuals consider themselves to be?
  • List two or three examples that indicate race is a social construction rather than a biological category.

Begley, S. (2008, February 29). Race and DNA. Newsweek . Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/lab-notes/2008/02/29/race-and-dna.html .

Berger, P., & Luckmann, T. (1963). The social construction of reality . New York, NY: Doubleday.

Leland, J., & Beals, G. (1997, May 5). In living colors: Tiger Woods is the exception that rules. Newsweek 58–60.

Omi, M., & Winant, H. (1994). Racial formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Painter, N. I. (2010). The history of white people . New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Smedley, A. (1998). “Race” and the construction of human identity. American Anthropologist, 100 , 690–702.

Staples, B. (1998, November 13). The shifting meanings of “black” and “white,” The New York Times , p. WK14.

Stone, L., & Lurquin, P. F. (2007). Genes, culture, and human evolution: A synthesis . Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Wright, L. (1993, July 12). One drop of blood. The New Yorker, pp. 46–54.

Sociology Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Essay Samples on Race and Ethnicity

How does race affect social class.

How does race affect social class? Race and social class are intricate aspects of identity that intersect and influence one another in complex ways. While social class refers to the economic and societal position an individual holds, race encompasses a person's racial or ethnic background....

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Best topics on Race and Ethnicity

1. How Does Race Affect Social Class

2. How Does Race Affect Everyday Life

3. Race and Ethnicity’s Impact on US Employment and Criminal Justice

4. Why Race and Ethnicity Matter in the Social World

5. The Correlation Between Race and Ethnicity and Education in the US

6. Damaging Effects of Social World on People of Color

7. An Eternal Conflict of Race and Ethnicity: a History of Mankind

8. Complicated Connection Between Identity, Race and Ethnicity

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  • 11.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 What Is Sociology?
  • 1.2 The History of Sociology
  • 1.3 Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology
  • 1.4 Why Study Sociology?
  • Section Summary
  • Section Quiz
  • Short Answer
  • Further Research
  • 2.1 Approaches to Sociological Research
  • 2.2 Research Methods
  • 2.3 Ethical Concerns
  • 3.1 What Is Culture?
  • 3.2 Elements of Culture
  • 3.3 High, Low, Pop, Sub, Counter-culture and Cultural Change
  • 3.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Culture
  • 4.1 Types of Societies
  • 4.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Society
  • 4.3 Social Constructions of Reality
  • 5.1 Theories of Self-Development
  • 5.2 Why Socialization Matters
  • 5.3 Agents of Socialization
  • 5.4 Socialization Across the Life Course
  • 6.1 Types of Groups
  • 6.2 Group Size and Structure
  • 6.3 Formal Organizations
  • 7.1 Deviance and Control
  • 7.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance and Crime
  • 7.3 Crime and the Law
  • 8.1 Technology Today
  • 8.2 Media and Technology in Society
  • 8.3 Global Implications of Media and Technology
  • 8.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Media and Technology
  • 9.1 What Is Social Stratification?
  • 9.2 Social Stratification and Mobility in the United States
  • 9.3 Global Stratification and Inequality
  • 9.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Social Stratification
  • 10.1 Global Stratification and Classification
  • 10.2 Global Wealth and Poverty
  • 10.3 Theoretical Perspectives on Global Stratification
  • 11.1 Racial, Ethnic, and Minority Groups
  • 11.3 Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism
  • 11.4 Intergroup Relationships
  • 11.5 Race and Ethnicity in the United States
  • 12.1 Sex, Gender, Identity, and Expression
  • 12.2 Gender and Gender Inequality
  • 12.3 Sexuality
  • 13.1 Who Are the Elderly? Aging in Society
  • 13.2 The Process of Aging
  • 13.3 Challenges Facing the Elderly
  • 13.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Aging
  • 14.1 What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?
  • 14.2 Variations in Family Life
  • 14.3 Challenges Families Face
  • 15.1 The Sociological Approach to Religion
  • 15.2 World Religions
  • 15.3 Religion in the United States
  • 16.1 Education around the World
  • 16.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Education
  • 16.3 Issues in Education
  • 17.1 Power and Authority
  • 17.2 Forms of Government
  • 17.3 Politics in the United States
  • 17.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Government and Power
  • Introduction to Work and the Economy
  • 18.1 Economic Systems
  • 18.2 Globalization and the Economy
  • 18.3 Work in the United States
  • 19.1 The Social Construction of Health
  • 19.2 Global Health
  • 19.3 Health in the United States
  • 19.4 Comparative Health and Medicine
  • 19.5 Theoretical Perspectives on Health and Medicine
  • 20.1 Demography and Population
  • 20.2 Urbanization
  • 20.3 The Environment and Society
  • Introduction to Social Movements and Social Change
  • 21.1 Collective Behavior
  • 21.2 Social Movements
  • 21.3 Social Change

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you should be able to:

  • Describe how major sociological perspectives view race and ethnicity
  • Identify examples of culture of prejudice

Theoretical Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity

We can examine race and ethnicity through three major sociological perspectives: functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. As you read through these theories, ask yourself which one makes the most sense and why.

Functionalism

Functionalism emphasizes that all the elements of society have functions that promote solidarity and maintain order and stability in society. Hence, we can observe people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds interacting harmoniously in a state of social balance. Problems arise when one or more racial or ethnic groups experience inequalities and discriminations. This creates tension and conflict resulting in temporary dysfunction of the social system. For example, the killing of a Black man George Floyd by a White police officer in 2020 stirred up protests demanding racial justice and changes in policing in the United States. To restore the society’s pre-disturbed state or to seek a new equilibrium, the police department and various parts of the system require changes and compensatory adjustments.

Another way to apply the functionalist perspective to race and ethnicity is to discuss the way racism can contribute positively to the functioning of society by strengthening bonds between in-group members through the ostracism of out-group members. Consider how a community might increase solidarity by refusing to allow outsiders access. On the other hand, Rose (1951) suggested that dysfunctions associated with racism include the failure to take advantage of talent in the subjugated group, and that society must divert from other purposes the time and effort needed to maintain artificially constructed racial boundaries. Consider how much money, time, and effort went toward maintaining separate and unequal educational systems prior to the civil rights movement.

In the view of functionalism, racial and ethnic inequalities must have served an important function in order to exist as long as they have. This concept, sometimes, can be problematic. How can racism and discrimination contribute positively to society? Nash (1964) focused his argument on the way racism is functional for the dominant group, for example, suggesting that racism morally justifies a racially unequal society. Consider the way slave owners justified slavery in the antebellum South, by suggesting Black people were fundamentally inferior to White and preferred slavery to freedom.

Interactionism

For symbolic interactionists, race and ethnicity provide strong symbols as sources of identity. In fact, some interactionists propose that the symbols of race, not race itself, are what lead to racism. Famed Interactionist Herbert Blumer (1958) suggested that racial prejudice is formed through interactions between members of the dominant group: Without these interactions, individuals in the dominant group would not hold racist views. These interactions contribute to an abstract picture of the subordinate group that allows the dominant group to support its view of the subordinate group, and thus maintains the status quo. An example of this might be an individual whose beliefs about a particular group are based on images conveyed in popular media, and those are unquestionably believed because the individual has never personally met a member of that group.

Another way to apply the interactionist perspective is to look at how people define their races and the race of others. Some people who claim a White identity have a greater amount of skin pigmentation than some people who claim a Black identity; how did they come to define themselves as Black or White?

Conflict Theory

Conflict theories are often applied to inequalities of gender, social class, education, race, and ethnicity. A conflict theory perspective of U.S. history would examine the numerous past and current struggles between the White ruling class and racial and ethnic minorities, noting specific conflicts that have arisen when the dominant group perceived a threat from the minority group. In the late nineteenth century, the rising power of Black Americans after the Civil War resulted in draconian Jim Crow laws that severely limited Black political and social power. For example, Vivien Thomas (1910–1985), the Black surgical technician who helped develop the groundbreaking surgical technique that saves the lives of “blue babies” was classified as a janitor for many years, and paid as such, despite the fact that he was conducting complicated surgical experiments. The years since the Civil War have showed a pattern of attempted disenfranchisement, with gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts aimed at predominantly minority neighborhoods.

Intersection Theory

Feminist sociologist Patricia Hill Collins (1990) further developed intersection theory , originally articulated in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, which suggests we cannot separate the effects of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and other attributes (Figure 11.4). When we examine race and how it can bring us both advantages and disadvantages, it is important to acknowledge that the way we experience race is shaped, for example, by our gender and class. Multiple layers of disadvantage intersect to create the way we experience race. For example, if we want to understand prejudice, we must understand that the prejudice focused on a White woman because of her gender is very different from the layered prejudice focused on an Asian woman in poverty, who is affected by stereotypes related to being poor, being a woman, and her ethnic status.

Culture of Prejudice

Culture of prejudice refers to the theory that prejudice is embedded in our culture. We grow up surrounded by images of stereotypes and casual expressions of racism and prejudice. Consider the casually racist imagery on grocery store shelves or the stereotypes that fill popular movies and advertisements. It is easy to see how someone living in the Northeastern United States, who may know no Mexican Americans personally, might gain a stereotyped impression from such sources as Speedy Gonzalez or Taco Bell’s talking Chihuahua. Because we are all exposed to these images and thoughts, it is impossible to know to what extent they have influenced our thought processes.

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7.S: Race and Ethnicity (Summary)

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  • Racial and ethnic prejudice and discrimination have been an “American dilemma” in the United States ever since the colonial period. Slavery was only the ugliest manifestation of this dilemma. In the 19th century, white mobs routinely attacked blacks and immigrants, and these attacks continued well into the 20th century. The urban riots of the 1960s led to warnings about the racial hostility and discrimination confronting African Americans and other groups, and these warnings continue down to the present.
  • Social scientists today tend to consider race more of a social category than a biological one for several reasons. People within a given race often look more different from each other than people do across races. Over the decades, so much interracial reproduction has occurred that many people have mixed racial ancestry. DNA evidence indicates that only a small proportion of our DNA accounts for the physical differences that lead us to put people into racial categories. Given all of these reasons, race is best considered a social construction and not a fixed biological category.
  • Ethnicity refers to a shared cultural heritage and is a term increasingly favored by social scientists over race. Membership in ethnic groups gives many people an important sense of identity and pride but can also lead to hostility toward people in other ethnic groups.
  • Prejudice, racism, and stereotypes all refer to negative attitudes about people based on their membership in racial or ethnic categories. Social-psychological explanations of prejudice focus on scapegoating and authoritarian personalities, while sociological explanations focus on conformity and socialization or on economic and political competition. Before the 1970s old-fashioned or Jim Crow racism prevailed that considered African Americans and some other groups biologically inferior. This form of racism has since given way to modern or “symbolic” racism that considers these groups to be culturally inferior and that affects the public’s preferences for government policy touching on racial issues. Stereotypes in the mass media fuel racial and ethnic prejudice.
  • Discrimination and prejudice often go hand in hand, but not always. People can discriminate without being prejudiced, and they can be prejudiced without discriminating. Individual and institutional discrimination both continue to exist in the United States, but institutional discrimination in such areas as employment, housing, and medical care is especially pervasive.
  • Racial and ethnic inequality in the United States is reflected in income, employment, education, and health statistics. In all of these areas, African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos lag far behind whites. As a “model minority,” many Asian Americans have fared better than whites, but some Asian groups also lag behind whites. In their daily lives, whites enjoy many privileges denied their counterparts in other racial and ethnic groups. They don’t have to think about being white, and they can enjoy freedom of movement and other advantages simply because of their race.
  • On many issues Americans remain sharply divided along racial and ethnic lines. One of the most divisive issues is affirmative action. Its opponents view it among other things as reverse discrimination, while its proponents cite many reasons for its importance, including the need to correct past and present discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities.
  • By the year 2050, whites of European backgrounds will constitute only about half of the American population, whereas now they make up about three-fourths of the population. This demographic change may exacerbate racial tensions if whites fear the extra competition for jobs and other resources that their dwindling numbers may engender. Given this possibility, intense individual and collective efforts are needed to help people of all races and ethnicities realize the American Dream.

Using Sociology

Kim Smith is the vice president of a multicultural group on her campus named Students Operating Against Racism (SOAR). Recently two black students at her school said that they were walking across campus at night and were stopped by campus police for no good reason. SOAR has a table at the campus dining commons with flyers protesting the incident and literature about racial profiling. Kim is sitting at the table, when suddenly two white students come by, knock the literature off the table, and walk away laughing. What, if anything, should Kim do next?

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An Introduction to Ethnicity

ethnicity is cultural, and often contrasted to ‘race’ which refers to biological differences.

Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Karl Thompson

Ethnicity refers to a type of social identity based on cultural background, shared lifestyles and shared experiences. Several characteristics may serve as sources of a collective identity such as: language, a sense of shared history or ancestry, religion, shared beliefs and values.

dress islamic identity.jpg

Ethnic groups are ‘imagined communities’ whose existence depends on the self-identification of their members. Members of ethnic groups may see themselves as culturally distinct from other groups, and are seen, in turn, as different. In this sense, ethnic groups always co-exist with other ethnic groups.

When sociologists use the term ethnicity they usually contrast it to the historically discredited concept of race. Ethnicity refers to an active source of identity rooted in culture and society which means it is different to the concept of race which has historically been defined as something fixed and biological.

Ethnicity is learned, there is nothing innate about it, it has to be actively passed down through the generations by the process of socialisation. It follows that for some people, ethnicity is a very important source of identity, for others it means nothing at all, and for some it only becomes important at certain points in their lives – maybe when they get married or during religious festivals, or maybe during a period of conflict in a country.

Because it is rooted in culture, people’s sense of their ethnic identities can change over time and become more or less active in particular social contexts.

However some members of some ethnic groups may perceive the idea of race as important to their sense of shared identity. Some people may believe that they are of one particular race based on their particular biological characteristics or their shared ancestry and believe that only people with whom they perceive as having the same ‘racial’ characteristics belong to their in-group.

For comparative purposes you might like to read this post: an introduction to the concept of race for sociology students . 

Problems with the concept of ethnicity

Majority ethnic groups are still ‘ethnic groups’. However, there is often a tendency to label the majority ethnic group, e.g. the ‘white-British’ group as non-ethnic, and all other minority ethnic groups as ‘ethnic minorities’. This results in the majority group regarding themselves as ‘the norm’ from which all other minority ethnic groups diverge.

There is also a tendency to oversimplify the concept of ethnicity – a good example of this is when job application forms ask for your ethnic identity (ironically to track equality of opportunity) and offer a limited range of categories such as Asian, African, Caribbean, White and so on, which fails to recognize that there are a number of different ethnic identities within each of these broader (misleading?) categories.

Sources use to write this post

Giddens and Sutton (2017) Sociology

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Race and Ethnicity, Essay Example

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Race refers to a person’s physical appearance.In the past, race used to be identified by the use of skin color, eye color, hair color and bone or jaw structure (Karen and Nkomo324).Conversely,ethnicity, is based on shared cultural factors such as nationality, culture, ancestry, food, languages and beliefs (Karen and Nkomo325). Currently, race identification is done by use of DNA molecules thus, physical appearances cannot give one the right race.Ethnic identification can be accepted or rejected by the person in a particular group.They are social characteristics that can either make a person to be accepted or rejected in the society (Greene and Owen 27).

Race according to sociologist are social concepts and is a way in which people are treated, for example, people treat black people different from the white.Race and ethnicity affects day-to-day life.For example, in the video, Sociologist Key Coder, when she was five years old, she was being asked what she is.Others saw Coder as Caucasian American, Spanish, others as Japanese although she was taller, darker and with some spots, this bring out clearly the aspects of racism in the society (Exploring Society Telecourse – video).

Causes of Race and ethnicity

There are four outcomes of race and ethnicity. These are stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and racism. Stereotypes arebehavioror a tendency of a particular group of people. When it is extreme it will be viewed as stereotypes. For example, all young people like music (Exploring Society Telecourse – Video).Prejudice is based on the stereotypes and attitudes or ideas determine how a person is treated. This is treating a person differently because of his/her race, for example, you stupid woman driver, just because she is a woman, she is treated differently. This judgment can either be positive or negative.

Discrimination, on the other hand, is when prejudice is acted upon. Discrimination is the acting on the attitude one has on the other.For example, having different hotels and washrooms, which are meant for white and black people (David174).Racism is discriminating people using their inherited traits. This is mostly used for the rationale of control and power. For example, during slavery the blacks were inferior and less privileged to the whites who became their masters. In racism, there is institutional racism, which is a large form of discrimination to a larger group.For example,the giving of health care services to the whites in a certain hospital and not the blacks (David, P.174).

Sociological perspective of race and ethnicity

Sociological perspective is the understanding of race and ethnicity in depth. There are three sociological perspectives; these are functionalism, conflicts, and interactionism.  Functionalism indicates that race and ethnicity exist because they serve a certain purpose in the community. Leaders can use it during the war to establish a sense of belonging in a country allowing them to act as one, for example, Hitler in Germany (Exploring Society Telecourse – Video).

In conflicts perspective, race and ethnicity is used for economical and political powers. This is used for the advantage of the dominant group against the inferior group.  For example, slavery was a conflict perspective because the slave acquired would work for their master, improving his wealth and political position in society. This is taking advantage of the less fortunate group (Exploring Society Telecourse – Video).Interactionism perspective is mostly in small scale and normally comes out when a certain group of people are around others. When there is a group of employees, a few will start viewing themselves differently.For example, Asians, this is because there are American and African in the same group; this is commonly known as Labeling (Exploring Society Telecourse – Video).

In conclusion, race and ethnicity impacts on the society by having people of a different race influencing the actions of the other race. This can be negative or positives,but mostly people choice to copy the positive traits or what they view as fit to them. For example, the rock and roll musicians in America, most of them being white or black acted the same way and people enjoyed their music.

Works Cited

Exploring Society Telecourse – Streaming Videos, Retrieved on 7 December 2012 From http://irt.austincc.edu/streaming/telecourses/si.html. Web.

Greene, Patricia and Margaret, Owen. “Race and ethnicity.” Handbook of entrepreneurial dynamics: The process of business creation (2004): 26-38. Print

Proudford, Karen L., and Stella Nkomo. “Race and ethnicity in organizations.” Handbook of workplace diversity. (2006): 323-344. Print.

Williams, David R. “Race, socioeconomic status, and health the added effects of racism and discrimination.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 896.1 (2006): 173-188. Print.

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Home — Essay Samples — Sociology — Ethnicity — How Race And Ethnicity Contribute To Social Identities

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How Race and Ethnicity Contribute to Social Identities

  • Categories: Ethnicity National Identity Socialization

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Published: Jan 28, 2021

Words: 1051 | Pages: 2 | 6 min read

Works Cited

  • Arnett, J. J. (2007). The myth of peer pressure. Adolescence, 42(166), 1-4.
  • Erikson, E. H. (1980). Identity and the life cycle. WW Norton & Company.
  • Hall, S. (1990). Cultural identity and diaspora. Identity: Community, culture, difference, 222-237.
  • James, W. (2010). The principles of psychology: Volume one. Cosimo, Inc.
  • Kivisto, P. (2013). Social identity: Making sense of ourselves. SAGE Publications.
  • Meeus, W. H. J. (2011). The study of adolescent identity formation 2000-2010: A review of longitudinal research. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 75-94.
  • Phinney, J. S., & Ong, A. D. (2007). Conceptualization and measurement of ethnic identity: Current status and future directions. Journal of counseling psychology, 54(3), 271-281.
  • Rivas-Drake, D., Seaton, E. K., Markstrom, C., Quintana, S., Syed, M., Lee, R. M., ... & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (2014). Ethnic and racial identity in adolescence: Implications for psychosocial, academic, and health outcomes. Child development, 85(1), 40-57.
  • Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. The social psychology of intergroup relations, 33(47), 74.
  • Ward, C., & Kennedy, A. (1999). The measurement of sociocultural adaptation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 23(4), 659-677.

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race and ethnicity short essay

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Essay on Race And Ethnicity

Students are often asked to write an essay on Race And Ethnicity in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Race And Ethnicity

Understanding race.

Race refers to a group of people who share physical and genetic traits. These traits include things like skin color, eye shape, or hair texture. For example, people from Africa might share a dark skin color, which is a racial trait.

Defining Ethnicity

Ethnicity, on the other hand, is about culture, language, and shared history. It’s not about physical traits. People from the same ethnic group have the same traditions, speak the same language, and usually come from the same place.

Race vs Ethnicity

So, race is about physical traits, and ethnicity is about cultural identity. They are different, but both are important. They help us understand who we are and where we come from.

Importance of Respect

It’s important to respect all races and ethnicities. Everyone has the right to be proud of their race and ethnicity. Remember, no race or ethnicity is better or worse than another.

In conclusion, race and ethnicity are key parts of our identities. They make us unique and special. We should celebrate and respect these differences, not use them to divide us.

250 Words Essay on Race And Ethnicity

Race is a way people group others based on physical traits. These traits can include skin color, eye shape, hair texture, and more. For example, some races are Asian, African, and Caucasian. It’s important to remember that race is a social idea, not a biological fact. This means that people made up the idea of race, it’s not something we’re born with.

What is Ethnicity?

Ethnicity is a bit different from race. It’s about culture, not physical traits. People who share an ethnicity often have the same traditions, language, or history. For instance, a person might be racially Asian but ethnically Japanese. This means they have physical traits common in Asia, but their culture and traditions are Japanese.

Race and Ethnicity in Society

Race and ethnicity play a big role in society. They can influence how people see each other and themselves. Sometimes, this can lead to unfair treatment or prejudice. For example, people of a certain race or ethnicity might face discrimination or racism.

Importance of Respect and Understanding

It’s crucial to respect and understand both race and ethnicity. This helps us appreciate the diversity in our world. By learning about different races and ethnicities, we can better understand people’s experiences and views. This can lead to more acceptance and equality in society.

In conclusion, race and ethnicity are key parts of our identities. They shape how we see the world and how the world sees us. By understanding these concepts, we can promote a more fair and inclusive society.

500 Words Essay on Race And Ethnicity

Understanding race and ethnicity.

Race and ethnicity are two terms that we often use to describe people’s identity. They help us understand the diversity in our world. Race is usually linked to physical traits like skin color, eye shape, or hair texture. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is about culture, such as language, religion, or traditions.

The Concept of Race

The idea of race began many years ago. People used it to group others based on their physical features. This was not always fair or correct. It led to the belief that some races were better than others, which is not true. Everyone is equal, no matter their race. Scientists today agree that there is only one human race. The differences we see are just variations in our genes.

The Idea of Ethnicity

Ethnicity is different from race. It is not about how we look, but about our cultural background. It includes things like the language we speak, the food we eat, and the traditions we follow. People of the same ethnicity often share a common heritage. They have a shared history and a sense of belonging.

Importance of Race and Ethnicity

Race and ethnicity are important because they shape our identity. They help us understand where we come from and who we are. They also influence the way we view the world and how others see us. It’s important to respect all races and ethnicities. This promotes peace and understanding among different groups of people.

Challenges Related to Race and Ethnicity

Sadly, race and ethnicity can also lead to problems. Some people face discrimination or unfair treatment because of their race or ethnicity. This is called racism. It is wrong and harmful. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness, no matter their race or ethnicity.

In conclusion, race and ethnicity are part of who we are. They help us understand our roots and our place in the world. It’s important to respect all races and ethnicities, and to stand against racism. We should celebrate our differences, not use them to divide us. Together, we can create a world where everyone is valued and respected for who they are.

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7 Race And Ethnicity Essay Topics That Will Amaze Your Professor

Race and Ethnicity Essay Topics

What’s The Difference Between Race And Ethnicity?

Types of races, race and ethnicity research topics, trouble finding the right race and ethnicity essay topics get our expert help now.

How will you begin if somebody wants you to explain your identity? Could it be a matter of skin colour or the country you’re from? How about your national language, your faith, social customs, or even the background of your parents?

Racial identity and ethnic identity are two characteristics that distinguish humans. Race and ethnicity, with the exception of personality characteristics, views, and behaviours, cannot be altered or selected. It is entirely dependent on lineage. Yet why do humans distinguish among the two notions, as well as what are underlying key variations? Why do individuals categorise various races and ethnicities? Continue through the blog to learn the different race and ethnicity essay topics. 

You'll probably discover lots of race and ethnicity essay samples if you need a homework paper on the relevant subject upcoming shortly and are seeking motivation.

Sociology employs and criticises the ideas of race and ethnicity, linking these to the conceptions of the upper class and lower communities as well as societal processes of disparity, authority, and hierarchy. The sociology viewpoint investigates the ways race and ethnicity are culturally created as well as how people associate with any or many of them. According to studies, these are connected to social status as well as legal and socioeconomic discussions regarding problems such as immigrant, personality creation, and cross-connections, including racism.

While attempting to contrast and categorise race and ethnicity, it is critical first to understand what they are.

A race is a community of individuals who share identical distinguishing categorisations due to physical and cultural characteristics. At the start of the word's adoption, it solely applied to persons who spoke the same tongue. Eventually, the phrase became to designate specific national affinities. In the seventeenth century, a connection to physical characteristics was introduced to the word race.

In today's world, the race is seen as a sociological concept. It wouldn't be wrong to call it a distinct identification with a cultural significance.

Ethnicity refers to a collective of individuals who share characteristics such as a shared language, heritage, background, religion, culture, and country.

Individuals acquire ethnicity based on the social context. Symbol traditions such as faith, food, art, clothing sense, and sometimes physical features are other characteristics that determine an individual's ethnicity.

The word ethnicity is often applied interchangeably with the words people or country. It's also worth noting that it's normal for someone to abandon one ethnic community and join a different one. Acculturation, linguistic change, or faith transformation are common methods of doing so.

Essay on Races

It is equally interesting to note that the distinction between two words is extremely hazy. As a consequence, the decision to choose one or the other might be highly opinionated.

In most circumstances, the race is regarded as unitary, which indicates that one individual adheres to just one race. Nevertheless, this particular individual can classify as a citizen of many ethnicities. And it will not be incorrect if an individual has spent sufficient time in such communities.

Mentioned below are some of the major races of people present across the globe: 

Native Alaskans or American Indians 

An individual who has ancestors from any of North and South America's native inhabitants (such as Central America) who retains tribe connection or communal affiliation.

An individual with ancestors from any of the indigenous groups of people of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, such as China, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines. These are broadly known as the mongoloid communities.

African-American Or Black 

An individual with ancestors from any of Africa's dark-skinned racial groupings. In place of "Black or African American," other words including Negroid might be applied.

Caucasian Or White

The Caucasian race has a lighter skin tone. The colour of their hair can be anywhere from blonde to brown. They can be distinguished by their higher stature. 

Suppose all of the material above wasn't sufficient to pique your interest, and you're seeking race and ethnicity short essay topics or even outright essay samples for the written assignments. In that case, you're in luck since Sample Assignment''s specialists have recommended several of them.

Look out for the examples of race and ethnic group essays provided here. Have them as motivation, or attempt to expand on one of the recommended subjects. No matter which choice you select, we are confident that you will get excellent grades! 

Here are some topics you can get inspired from: 

  • Crime And Race
  • Native And White Americans 
  • Colonialism 
  • Race And Gender 
  • Race And Economy
  • Race And Family

Now that you grasp the significance of Race And Ethnicity Essay Topics, you realise that it’s not always an easy task for already occupied students to complete essay assignments in due time for submission. 

Sample Assignment is like a team of homework physicians who are constantly there to help you. We recognise that assignment submissions can be a source of anxiety for many students who are simultaneously managing other academic responsibilities.

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Published: 03/20/2020

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Racial and ethnic differences have for a long time been blamed for the existence of social and economic discrimination and inequalities in the United States. This is especially prevalent as a result of a belief that the white Americans enjoy more social and economic privileges and benefits as compared to the people from colored ethnic groups. The existence of such ethnic inequalities in the American history has resulted to aggression and hatred between people from different racial and ethnic identities. It has also increased perceptions that some ethnic groups are more superior as compared to other ethnic groups. This indifference has existed regardless of the fact that the racial and ethnic identity of some white Americans cannot be traced due to several factors that have erased their origins. Thus, understanding social and cultural concepts involving racial discrimination, ethnic identity, and cultural values among other ideas plays a vital role in enlightening and understanding of the existence of such issues so as to embrace the reality and enact change towards a better social relationship. First, the concept of racial discrimination and inequality is a fact that has existed in the American history from the time the whites settled in America and used the people of color as sources of labor for their farms. In addition, whites have enjoyed certain privileges that were denied to other races, yet many whites avoid the topic of racial discrimination D'Angelo and Herbert 285). Furthermore, the current experiences of whites kids such as attending to particular universities as well as the existence of black only or whites only social gatherings at school is a disturbing experience especially for those students who know nothing about the existence of racial and ethnic-related superiority versus inferiority issues. These experiences are made worse by the fact that most white kids do not feel as they if they are different from other races despite the existence of ethnic ridge that was created by historic acts of inequality and discrimination. In reality, the ethnic identity of most white Americans cannot be described due to several factors such as intermarriages between people from different ethnic background. Others cannot trace their origins since they cannot trace the identity of their forefathers who settled in America for a long time ago. Despite not knowing their racial and ethnic identities, most white kids are also ignorant of the existence of racial and ethnic-related conflicts as they grew up in neighborhoods or high schools where racial discrimination is barely talked about. The fact is that the exposure to the learning on the topics on inequality based on race and ethnicity is a suitable way of enabling the young white Americans to come up with ways of correcting the way system treats people on basis of their ethnic identity. The concept of understanding why people of color perceive the existence of racial inequality exist is also worsened by the white American’s way of judging the behaviors of other ethnic groups instead of identifying the behavior of the whites in the society. Thus, getting to know that this issue has existed in as early as the seventeenth century will enable the whites to identify some traits that people of their ethnic group portray that suggest the existence of discrimination. As a result, this will allow them to come up with a suitable way of learning and embracing ethnic and cultural diversity without prejudice or mythical beliefs. Accepting the fact that the modern-day privileges are based on socioeconomic status and merits of a person is regardless of their ethnic group is also an essential point that will help promote equality if embraced by both whites and persons from other races.

Works Cited

D'Angelo, Raymond, and Herbert Douglas, eds. Taking sides: Clashing views in race and ethnicity. McGraw-Hill Contemporary Learning Series, 2006

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Ethnicity Essay: Cultural Background in the Daily Lives of Children and Young People

Introduction.

The purpose of this essay is to assess the impact that ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds have on the daily lives of children or young people. Many cities and countries around the world are made up of diverse ethnic societies and communities that have different social practices and values.

Cultural backgrounds and ethnicity provide such communities with a sense of uniqueness and differentiation from other societies that might be found within the same city or country. To better understand the topic under discussion a definition of ethnicity and culture should be discussed.

Ethnicity is defined as a social group or community in a certain area that shares similar features which might include language, physical appearance, customs and cultural practices and religion. Ethnicity is also defined as the selected cultural characteristics that are used to identify and categorise people that are viewed to be significantly different from other people within the same social context (Dindyal and Dindyal 2004).

Ethnic groups are the social categories that are used to classify people within the society and they can either be minority or majority groups based on the population of people that belong to these categories.

Ethnic groups in some countries are also referred to as tribes given that they speak a different language from the rest of society (Aggleton et al 2006). Ethnic categorization provides people with a link to their ancestry, biological inheritance as well as cultural information. Ethnicity provides people with a cultural identity that can be used to differentiate them from other people.

Ethnicity therefore provides people with culture given that the concept is a construct of culture (O’Neil 2006). Cultural background or culture is how people in a certain social group or community view things or happenings around the world.

Culture is a pattern of living that is governed by traditions and customs of a particular social group or community. It encompasses aspects such as assumptions, attitudes, values, customs and perceptions that people have on various aspects that affect their daily lives (D’Anastasi and Frydenberg 2005).

The culture of a particular group will determine the sets of beliefs or values that will be shared by members of that group. Cultural values and beliefs are usually handed down from one generation to another to ensure that the traditions of a social group have been maintained and kept intact.

Culture is therefore important to the society as it ensures that certain social practices have been maintained as well as ensuring that the daily lives of human beings have some meaning and purpose. Both culture and ethnicity have a direct impact on the daily lives of human beings, young adults and children as they affect their decisions as well as their personal actions (Alder et al 2009).

Children or Young Adults and Culture or Ethnic Aspects

According to Montgomery and Kellett (2009) children or young people are described as social phenomenons that are defined by their biological and social maturity as well as their intellectual development. Their maturity levels are usually assigned based on the social meaning that they derive from their cultural settings as well as their ethnic backgrounds.

The idea of a child according to Montgomery and Kellett (2009) refers to a representation of a whole category of young people that are identified by their age and intellectual development and also their social maturity and how this affects their social standing within a particular society or community.

The biological and social immaturity of young people and children is viewed by Raman (2010) to be the only determinant that can be used to gauge a child’s development within the society. This biological/social immaturity is what is used to determine whether the child or young adult is being impacted in a direct or indirect way by ethnicity or their cultural background.

Childhood is viewed to be a stage in the human life cycle that is determined by the level of incompleteness or incompetence that the child or young adult experiences in that period of their life. It is a period where the child or young adult is viewed to lack any flaws or faults by their parents and the community at large.

This is because at this stage they are still maturing and their intellectual capacities are still developing meaning that they cannot be able to differentiate properly between right and wrong.

They also view themselves to be without any flaws or faults as they believe that what they do is right regardless of whether it is wrong or right. Childhood is therefore an important stage in a person’s life as this period is viewed to be important in determining whether the child or young person will be influenced by cultural and ethnic aspects (UNICEF 2006).

Childhood and adolescence in children and young adults is a transitional process that is usually characterised by changes in behaviour and attitudes as well as in personality and physical appearances. These changes are usually brought on by biological and physical changes that take place during puberty that determine how the young adult will develop during this stage.

This stage is deemed to be important as the young adults are highly prone to being affected by various social aspects that take place in their communities or societies. Aspects such as ethnicity or culture are deemed to have an impact on the development of the young adult during this stage of their life (Zastrow and Ashman 2009).

While various cultural and ethnic groups exist in various societies around the world, children and young adults have their own cultural groups that exist in institutions such as schools, churches, recreational facilities and neighbourhoods. Cultural groups such as peer cultures are common in young adolescents where children form friendships based on their age and social status within the social institutions in which they exist in.

According to an analysis conducted by Sociologist William Corsaro (2003) on peer cultures that exist in nursery schools in the US and Italy, he noted that peer cultures that exist among young children were important in socializing them in their interactions with adults in the same social context.

Corsaro (2003) defines peer cultures as a stable set of activities, concerns, beliefs and routines that children share with their peers in their daily lives. Children reproduce peer cultures to reflect their own attitudes and beliefs that are different from those of adults because they involve the use of self discovery and the acquisition of new knowledge to develop their own culture (Montgomery 2009).

Peer cultures generally challenge the societal and community versions of culture where children and young adults are active partners when it comes to forming peer groups and developing meaning to these groups which can be used to develop their own culture. Peer cultures encourage children to participate in activities that they have a common interest in and they also encourage them to fit in with their peers.

Peer cultures according to Montgomery and Kellett (2009) are usually determined by the societal context in which the child or young adult has been brought up in as well as their ethnic backgrounds or tribes.

Children who are from similar ethnic communities are more than likely to form peer cultures in a community or society that is different from theirs. These children are also more than likely to form social groups based on their physical characteristics and also language familiarities.

Impact of Ethnicity and Culture in the Daily Lives of Children and Young People

Children are easily influenced and impacted on by various social aspects that take place within their ethnic or cultural backgrounds. According to Raman (2010) ethnicity and culture have an impact on the development of children and young people’s behaviour as well as their identity and well being in their various social contexts that include school, peer groups, home and other social institutions that exist within the society.

Ethnicity and culture have an impact on the development of children and young adults based on certain variables that include social characteristics, type of ethnic or cultural groups, individual characteristics of the child or young adult, racism or social discrimination within the society that the child is from and the type of language and language fluency (Bolaffi 2004).

Social characteristics such as religion, beliefs, shared values and customs, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds of a community impact on the development of children in that these beliefs or religions determine what practices the child will be involved in within the community.

Social characteristics impact on how children react to various situations in their day to day activities as they regard these characteristics when making decisions on how they will relate to their peers in school and also how they will interact with their colleagues in learning institutions.

The ethnic or cultural group impacts on the development of a child or young person as it provides a child with the ability to communicate in a language that can be understood by other members of the same social group or community. Ethnic groups impact on young adult’s development as they provide them with a sense of identity that can either be ethnic identity, cultural identity, nationality and racial identity.

This sense of identity is important in the development of the young adult’s personality, character and individual characteristics that are deemed to be different from those of other peers within the same social setting (Tudge 2008).

Social discrimination and racism exists in various ethnic communities around the world where various ethnic groups are discriminated against based on their social beliefs, values and customs. Social discrimination impacts on the everyday life of children and young adults based on which ethnic community they come from as well as the cultural practices that are exercised by these ethnic communities.

For example children from African communities are more than likely to experience social discrimination within westernised communities when compared to children from other westernised societies. Also children with Muslim backgrounds are likely to experience some form of racism and social discrimination because of their cultural beliefs, religion, customs and shared practices (Every Child Matters 2010).

Child rearing practices such feeding, demonstration of affection, discipline, teaching and moral reasoning influence the rate of a child’s development within the social context. Such practices also determine whether ethnicity and cultural practices will have an impact on the daily life of the child or young person.

For example feeding in some westernised societies is deemed to impact on the intellectual development of a child while in traditional societies feeding is deemed to be a mark of growth and maturity in childhood.

Some traditional societies and ethnic groups view the demonstration of affection by parents or caregivers to be a sign of weakness and poor self esteem in young children while westernised societies view affection to be an important aspect in the building up of self confidence and esteem in young children.

Such child rearing practices that have their basis on ethnicity and cultural backgrounds will therefore affect how a child will grow up and perform within their social settings (Montgomery and Kellett 2009).

Montgomery (2009) views ethnicity to have an impact on the way children experience their childhood based on their particular cultures and cultural backgrounds.

For example in measuring the goals of development of a young adult in the westernized world aspects such as career choices, career progression, marriage or the acquisition of a car or house are seen to be indicators that the young person is developing socially and intellectually.

In the traditional world, the goals of development that are used include achieving tribal status, moving from one stage of childhood to another, the ability to perform elevated tasks within the community and the ability to influence tribal decisions according to the social development of the young adult (Lewis 2005).

The various cultural practices and ethnic communities that exist have different practices that are determine how the everyday growth of a child or young adult will be affected.

For example in the westernized world cultural practices that exist in western societies emphasize the importance of direct and verbal learning in infants while traditional societies that are not westernised place a lot of emphasis on nonverbal learning that is indirect and observational in nature.

In the westernised societies children are allowed to perform child rearing practices such as feeding, sleeping and moral reasoning without the help of parents or caregivers while in the traditional societies children are in constant physical contact with their parents and caregivers who perform child rearing activities for them (Ramsay 2009).

Ethnicity and culture impact on the eating habits of children and young adults as various communities have cultures and practices on what food is acceptable or unacceptable. For example ethnic communities such as the Hindus do not consume cow meat because they view cows as their gods while Muslims do not consume pork or other products from pigs because they view them to be dirty.

Ethnicity and cultural practices therefore play an important role in determining the diet of young children from such cultural communities by ensuring that the type of food that they eat is not in contradiction with the values and beliefs of that particular society (Ramsay 2009).

How children and young adults learn in educational institutions is also affected by their ethnic backgrounds and cultural values. Various ethnic communities require their children to go through special educational training that is mostly focused on the ethnic group and its cultures, practices and customs.

For example Muslim children require special educational classes that teach them of their religion and cultural background as well as their beliefs and values. Various educational institutions around the world incorporate Christian educational studies in their curriculums to meet the religious needs of children and young adults from various religious backgrounds (Every Child matters 2010).

Apart from child development and child rearing activities, ethnicity and culture impacts on how children and young adults cope with their daily lives.

A cross cultural investigation conducted by D’Anastasi and Frydenberg (2005) on adolescents from various cultural backgrounds (Americans, Australian, Germans, British, Finnish, Russian, African and Israeli adolescents) showed how these young adults coped with various situations in their lives based on their ethnic or cultural backgrounds.

The results of the investigation indicated that a lot of diversity existed when it came to coping experiences among the youth. The investigations showed that young people from different ethnic communities and cultural backgrounds drew upon their diverse cultural and ethnic beliefs when coming up with suitable coping strategies (Hussain et al 2002).

The concept of coping which deals with managing situations that might threaten or affect an individual has a sociocultural embedment within various societies around the world. Different ethnic groups and societies have various strategies that they use to cope with dangerous situations that might face them in their day to day lives.

For example westernised societies such as America, the UK, some parts of Asia and Europe involve the use of verbal communication and expression when they are faced with threatening or emotional situations that affect them negatively.

In most of the traditional societies that exist in Africa as well as indigenous communities that are found in Australia, Asia, America and Canada, coping strategies are usually devoid of any forms of verbal communication with non verbal communication being the main strategy that is used to cope with threatening situations within these communities.

These ethnic groups also involve the use of physical confrontation to cope with these situations or negative problems that might affect them. Such differences in coping affect how young children and adults will deal with threatening situations in their daily lives (Ahmad et al 2008).

Based on a study conducted in 1992 by Seiffge and Krenke (cited by D’Anastasi and Frydenberg 2005) on German, Israel and Finnish adolescents and their coping strategies, young people involved the use of active, internal and withdrawal coping strategies when they were faced with threatening situations.

Active and internal coping strategies were viewed to be the most common coping approaches that were used by the interviewed adolescents while withdrawal was the least commonly used approach to deal with coping experiences.

The results of the study showed that there was a universal capacity for young people within diverse ethnic communities and cultural groups to involve the use of functional internal and active coping more than withdrawal when it came to dealing with stressful situations in their lives (D’Anastasi and Frydenberg 2005).

The essay has dealt with the impact of culture and/or ethnicity on the daily lives of young adults and children. The essay has dealt with the general concept of culture and ethnicity and how these two concepts affect the development of children that exist within the diverse societies that are in existence within the world.

The research within the essay has shown that culture and ethnicity affects the development of children as a whole as it determines their social maturity within various social settings.

Ethnicity and culture affects important aspects of a child’s development such as learning, eating and their interaction with peers within the society as it determines which values and beliefs the young person will follow to successfully achieve social maturity within the social or ethnic group.

The general conclusion derived from the essay’s discussion is that ethnicity and culture have an impact on the daily lives of young children and adults.

Alder, B., Abraham, C.S., and Teijlingen, E., (2009) Psychology and sociology applied to medicine . London, UK: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Ahmad, S., Akbar, A., Akbar, H., Ayub, S., Batool, A., Hussain, B., Kiani, S., Mahmood, S., and Rauf R., (2008) East meets west: why do some South Asian young people feel they need to lead a double identity and how does cultural and religious issues affect them . Web.

Aggleton, P., Ball, A., and Mane, P.N., (2006) Sex, drugs and young people: international perspectives . New Jersey: Routledge.

Bolaffi, G., (2004) Dictionary of race, ethnicity and culture . London, UK; Sage Publications.

Corsaro, W.A., (2003) We’re friends, right? : inside kid’s culture . Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press.

D’Anastasi, T., and Frydenberg, E., (2005) Ethnicity and coping: what young people do and what young people learn. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling , Vol.15, No.1, pp. 43-59.

Dindyal, S., and Dindyal, S., (2004) How personal factors including culture and ethnicity affect the choices and selection of food we make. The Internet Journal of Third World Medicine , Vol.1, No.2.

Every Child Matters (2010) Behaviour in schools . Web.

Hussain, Y., Ahman, W., and Atkin, K., (2002) South Asian disabled young people and their families . Bristol, UK: The Policy Press.

Lewis, V., (2005) The reality of research with children and young people . London, UK: Sage Publications.

Montgomery, H., and Kellet, M., (2009) Children and young people’s world: developing frameworks for integrated practice . London, UK: Sage Publication.

Montgomery, H., (2009) An introduction to childhood: anthropological perspectives on children’s lives . West Sussex, UK: John Wiley and Sons.

O’Neil, D., (2006) Ethnicity and race: overview . Web.

Raman, S., (2010) Culture, identity and wellbeing in children and young people . Sydney, Australia: Sydney South West Area Health Service.

Ramsay, H., (2009) The adolescent’s perspective of culture and ethnicity within the South African outcome based education system . Web.

Tudge, J., (2008) The everyday lives of young children: culture, class and child rearing in diverse societies . New York: Cambridge University Press.

UNICEF (2006) Convention on the rights of the child: protecting and realizing children’s rights . Web.

Zastrow, C., and Ashman, K.K., (2009) Understanding human behaviour and the social environment . Boston, Massachusetts; Cengage Learning.

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    Ethnicity provides people with a cultural identity that can be used to differentiate them from other people. Ethnicity therefore provides people with culture given that the concept is a construct of culture (O'Neil 2006). Cultural background or culture is how people in a certain social group or community view things or happenings around the ...

  23. race and ethnicity

    Black students at AU identify where inclusivity falls short Josiah Jones, Staff Writer January 15, 2024. ... a photo essay Matheus Kogi Fugita Abrahão and Mia Kimm February 20, 2023. Load More Stories. AWOL. Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible. Facebook. Instagram. X. LinkedIn. SoundCloud. YouTube.