Difference Between Race And Ethnicity

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The terms race and ethnicity are used to define or refer to a certain stereotypical category of people on the basis of different biological and social factors respectively. To complicate matters, there is no universal consensus on how to define each of these concepts individual. For example, sociology uses and critiques the concepts of race and ethnicity, connecting them to the idea of majority and minority groups and social structures of inequality, power and stratification. People commonly make distinctions between race and ethnicity as being biological or cultural or based on national origins and things like that. Regardless of how one sees them, the fact of the matter is that they are terms or concepts that have influenced our past, our present and likely our future. Let’s us look at the key differences and similarities between race and ethnicity.  

What Is Race?

Race is a social grouping of people who have similar physical or social characteristics that are generally considered by society as forming a distinct group. In other words, race refers to physical differences that groups and cultures consider socially significant. Race has often been distinguished on the basis of superficial physical characteristics, especially skin color, eye color, hair texture etc. Race is primarily unitary, you can have one race, while you claim multiple ethnic affiliations. You can identify ethnically as Irish and Polish, but you have to be essentially either black or white.

What Is Ethnicity?

An ethnic group is a population of human beings whose members identify with each other on the basis of a real or perceived common genealogy or ancestry. Ethnicity has often been distinguished on the basis of common language, religion, nationality, history and cultural heritage. Ethnicity is believed to promote group cohesiveness, particularly in communities of immigrants. Sharing ethnic identity provides safety to individuals who might face discrimination within their environment or host county. Ethnicity isn’t just a question of affiliation; it’s also a question of choice. It’s also a question of group membership. And is usually associated with a geographical region.

Also Read: Difference Between State And Nation

Race Vs Ethnicity

BASIS OF COMPARISON RACE ETHNICITY
Description Race is a social grouping of people who have similar physical or social characteristics that are generally considered by society as forming a distinct group. An ethnic group is a population of human beings whose members identify with each other on the basis of a real or perceived common genealogy or ancestry.
Basis of distinction Race has often been distinguished on the basis of physical characteristics, especially skin color, eye color, hair texture etc. Ethnicity has often been distinguished on the basis of common language, religion, nationality, history and cultural heritage.
Nature Race is primarily unilateral or unitary in characteristics. Ethnicity is not unilateral in characteristics. You can have one race but claim multiple ethnic affiliations.
Adoption Racial characteristics can only be inherited and cannot be adopted or ignored. Ethnicity can be adopted, self-defined, ignored or broadened.
Evolvement Racial identity is sometimes temporarily replaced with nationalism or ethnic identity. Over time, ethnic identity is overridden or replaced with racial identity.
Concealment Race cannot be hidden. Ethnicity can be hidden or concealed.  
Distinguishing factor Scientific studies show that other than skin color, there is no any genetic or whatsoever difference between races.   Not only do ethnic groups typically seek or strive to define themselves but also are defined by the stereotypes of dominant groups.
Association Can be associated with a given continent. Usually associated with a geographical area.
Assumption Race presumes shared biological or genetic traits, whether actual or asserted. Ethnicity connotes shared cultural traits and a shared group history.  
Examples Asians, Indo-Chinese, Africans, Latinos, Indian, Arabs, Jews, Chinese and Europeans (White and Caucasians).   Hausa-Fulani of West Africa; Luhyas and Kikuyus of East Africa; Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka; Shona and Zulu of Southern Africa; Sami, Nordic and Kven of Norway; Karelians of Finland; Gorani of Kosovo, Basques and Gitanos of Spain etc

Similarities Between Race And Ethnicity

  • Both are social constructs used to categorize and characterize seemingly distinct populations.
  • Both racial and ethnic bias fuels social exclusion, discrimination and violence against people from other social groups.
  • Both have been used to persecute and subjugate others.
  • People who share the same race may also have distinct ethnicities.
  • Many researchers believe that the idea of race and ethnicity has been socially constructed.
  • Both generate the idea of majority and minority groups (groups that are subordinate or that lack power in society regardless of skin color or country of origin).

Also Read: Difference Between Faithful And Loyal

Conclusion

Race and ethnicity are two concepts related to human ancestry, both of which are just social constructs used to categorize and characterize seemingly distinct populations. Race is usually associated with biology and linked with physical characteristics such as skin color or hair texture. Ethnicity is linked with cultural expression and identification. Though race and ethnicity have no genetic basis, the social concept of race still shapes human experiences. Both racial and ethnic bias fuels social exclusion, discrimination and violence against people from other social groups.