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What is race? What is ethnicity? What role does society play in defining these terms....

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alb35518 | eNoter

Posted June 22, 2010 at 8:46 PM via web

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What is race? What is ethnicity? What role does society play in defining these terms.

Also, what is a minority? Do you think that it is appropriate for this classification to exist in states where the minority is the majority?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 22, 2010 at 9:53 PM (Answer #2)

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Race and ethnicity in some ways go together.  An ethnic group is a group that has a distinct culture of its own.  It tends to be a group that shares an ancestral heritage.  A race, is defined more by physical characteristics.  Thus, a black Dominican and an African American would be of the same race, but not of the same ethnicity.

Society plays a huge role in defining these terms.  We say in America, for example that a person who is (like me) half-Asian and half-white is Asian.  As long as a person looks partly (for example) Asian, he is an Asian even if he is just as white as he is Asian.  So our society defines how much of a certain set of physical characteristics you have to have before you are a member of a given race.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted June 22, 2010 at 10:37 PM (Answer #3)

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Races refers to broad division of people based on their biological characteristics such as colour of skin, colour of hair and their facial  features. These differences developed among humans in prehistoric times due to different groups of people developing in different parts of the world isolated from each other. Originally all humans in the world belonged to one of the other of these pure races. However in today's world it is difficult to find people of that time. Most of the people living now have mixed racial ancestry.

Ethnicity refers to the common characteristics of  a group of people that distinguish them from most other people of the same society. Ethnicity is based on commonality of ancestry, culture, language, nationality, or religion, or a combination of these things. Biological characteristics that play a part in racial differences may be visible in an ethnic group, but these characteristic do not form a criteria for defining an ethnic group.

Minority refers to a racial, ethnic, religious or any similar group which exists within a society in small numbers as compared to the total membership of the society.

Not much can be done about the feeling of being in minority or majority exists in the minds of the people. In this sense we cannot speak of classification being appropriate or inappropriate. However if there are some official classification of minority y and majority group, then the appropriateness of that classification will depend on the purpose for which the classification is done, and what is the impact of classification on lives of the people involved.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 23, 2010 at 1:06 AM (Answer #4)

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This is an interesting question.  I liked the previous thoughts.  I also believe that the secondary question of the role society plays in the classification of said terms is powerful because this helps to impact individuals on multiple levels.  The notion of an "ethnic" or "racial" minority assists the construction of individual identity in a variety of ways.  Those deemed as "minorities" have a different experience in social settings than others.  Whether or not one wants to makes this good or bad is based on narrative experience, but it is different.  Social designations and conveying images related to these particular constructs impact daily consciousness for it provides a lens to filter such an experience.  The changing of racial or ethnic classification, gender, class experience, or sexual orientation identity all impact how one lives in a social setting and the narrative they form as a result.

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lit24 | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted June 23, 2010 at 5:54 AM (Answer #5)

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race is a biological construct, of a more or less distinct population with anatomical traits that distinguish it clearly from other races.  The anatomical traits usually refer to the color of the skin, shape of the eyes or the nose. For example, in India the people in the southern parts are quite different anatomically from the people in the northern parts, because the people from the south belong to the Dravidian race and the people from the north belong to the Aryan race. The three major races of the world are the Caucasian, the Mongoloid and the Negroid.

Ethnicity refers to the cultural factors of the racial group, especially religion, food habits, dressing and life style and occupations. Ethnicity refers to a subset within race. For example not all the Caucasians of the world follow the same religious or cultural practices.

In short, Race is genetically determined by Nature and ethnicity is Nurture.

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted June 23, 2010 at 11:24 AM (Answer #6)

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Many people will define race as a set of biological characteristics and traits that are present is a specific population of people. Ethnicity is a bit different. Ethnicity centers more around where and how people are raised in a specific culture. Some people may be of the same "color" but have different ethnicities because they were in different parts of the world. They have different cultures, beliefs, etc.

A minority is a group of people that differ from the general population. A person may be considered a minority for a number of reasons such as race or gender.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 24, 2011 at 6:04 AM (Answer #7)

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Minority is more of an historical definition. It has less to do with current statistics than with who has had power. Whites have had the power, and they used to outnumber the other races. Now, even though not larger in numbers they still have the majority of the power.
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roundwoman | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 8, 2012 at 11:36 AM (Answer #8)

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There are more and more discussions if we need 'new words' for those terms. People who are born in one country, raised in others and worked in many different might struggle with those terms, especially if they are then also coming from different "races".

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arrellbelle | TA , College Sophomore | Salutatorian

Posted July 19, 2014 at 3:48 PM (Answer #9)

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Race: Is a branch of people who speak the same language, then is divided into what nationalities they are affiliated to, or by what physical characteristics that they possess.

Ethnicity: It is a group of people who are affiliated by the same national or cultural tradition.

Minority: When you compare a group with another, it is the group that is less represented.

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