Race is a purely social concept.
Ethnicity refers to a shared cultural heritage.
Race – A group of people who have been
identified as having real or alleged physical characteristics. It is the fact
that these biological traits are endowed with social meaning that brings them
into the realm of the social sciences.
– refers to people who share common cultural characteristics and ethnic
identity; they share a sense of “oneness”, and a shared fate.
Minority – a group that has less power
than the dominant group, has less esteem and prestige, and is often the target
of discrimination. The two major characteristics are distinctive identity and
subordination. The sociological meaning of minority does not refer to the
numerical size of a group, nor to any specific ethnicity, race, or other real
or imaged factors as these factors are relative to a specific society.
Consider the following: “A racial group is a socially
constructed category of people who are distinguished from each other by select
physical characteristics” (Basirico et. al., 2014). Conversely, an ethnic group
refers to a group of people who share certain cultural traits, such as a
religion, language, or a geographic region. Key to the concept of an ethnic
group, however, is the sense of “peoplehood” that is developed within
refers to selected cultural and sometimes physical characteristics used to
classify people into groups or categories considered to be significantly
different from others (Identities and Inequalities).
In America today, there are many ethnic groups that are widely recognized. These groups can include: American Indians,
Latinos, Chinese, African Americans, European Americans, etc. For some
ethnicities, there is no “real” connection to others in the same grouping. It
is possible that there are no shared or recognized traditions or customs. This is the case with many Irish and German
Americans. In contrast, some ethnic groups are coherent subcultures with
a shared language and body of tradition. Newly arrived immigrant groups
often fit this pattern (Identities and Inequalities).
Ethnic membership is usually ascribed at birth; when a
person is born into an ethnic group it is unlikely that he or she will leave
unless there are unusual circumstances. A person born into Jewish culture may
leave and adopt Christianity for example, or an Amish born person may opt to
leave the Amish community but cases like this are the exception rather than the
It is important not to confuse
the term minority with ethnic group. Minority is simply a number, in relation
to the number and population of ethnic groups in a population. Even if an ethic
group is a “minority” in the overall population of a country, they may be a
“majority” in the town or city in which they reside. For example, think about
the Amish population in some towns in Michigan, Pennsylvania, etc. While this
ethnic group is a minority in the over US population, they are the majority
population where they live.
Race is all
about biology and species. Race, in the
traditional sense, has more to do with physical characteristics, rather than
culture. However, in this day and age, this traditional definition doesn’t fit in with what our
reality is, in relation to “race.” As
humans, we like to divide and define. Sociologists believe that “races” are
created by humans, not by biology. We can no longer define and group people
into “race” based on skin color and/physical traits. We cannot continue to categories people by
“race” because in this day and age, there is too small a dividing line between “black”,
“white”, or any other race.
Ethnicity versus Race
supposed “racial” groups are largely cultural and historical
constructs. These two categories are now thought of as social
divisions rather than actual biology. However, this does not mean that they do
not exist. To the contrary, “races” are very real in the world
today. In order to understand them, however, we must look into culture
and social interaction rather than biology.
In the US culture today, races have been defined by physical
traits that we can quickly identify by looking at a person. Due to this misinterpretation of a social
phenomenon, discrimination has become easier in our culture. People can now
focus on minute differences in others instead of focusing on what could and is
Diversity Patterns in
When we talk about race and ethnicity, we are focusing on
categories and numbers. The most comprehensive information that is presented is
the US Census that is Census gathered every 10 years. Even with how far
we have come with technology and information gathering, the Census can still be
considered not always or fully accurate. There are populations, think migrant
farm workers, who are under counted and/or not counted at all. This can be due
to several reasons, including people choosing to not answer the Census at all.
The US Census asks people to self-identify in terms of their
race and their ethnicity. There are people who do not realize that there are
distinct difference between these two words. And, while people are allowed to
self-disclosure, not every person filling out the Census will truly disclose.
For example, there are people who are two or more races and yet would check
only one box. Another factor to consider is that the US government provides the
categories in which people must choose. The failure to allow people to identify
with categories that they themselves subjectively volunteer makes the data less
The Census lumps people into groups based on the information
provided but, again, people must choose from what they are given by the
government. A person with European descent is guided to choose the “white”
category. While at the same time people from Africa are guided to choose the
“black” category. The Census also
divides by ethnicity and race. The only ethnic groups on the Census are
“Hispanic” and non-Hispanic. But when we look at race, the categories could
possibly be endless.
changing patterns in America
The US Census takes only numbers into account. In no way
does it account for the actual human or family behind the numbers collected.
Diversity, race, ethnicity and culture are deeply ingrained in each person who
fills out this piece of paper. What we learn from the Census can create change
and even social movements in our country. People can become more aware of their
own attitudes and thoughts toward another social group. In the next few
decades, what we now consider “minority” groups will no longer be so, in terms
of numbers. But how will the current “majority” population react to this shift
in numbers? When the “majority”
population become used to being equal? What about the day when the current
“minority” population becomes the “majority”?
A significant problem faced by most racial and ethnic groups
in America involves concerns regarding how they are perceived and treated by