In what ways do race/ethnicity and culture impact us?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Race, ethnicity, and culture impact all of us in many ways. These three concepts are ways in which people put themselves and others in categories. Fully answering your question is far beyond the scope of what can be done here. It could take a sociologist their whole career to do...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Race, ethnicity, and culture impact all of us in many ways. These three concepts are ways in which people put themselves and others in categories. Fully answering your question is far beyond the scope of what can be done here. It could take a sociologist their whole career to do that. I will however attempt to give you some guidance that should help.

The social construct of race is used explicitly and implicitly to define people as part of your group or outside of it based on physical features, most notably skin color. In the United States, race has historically been used to dehumanize and oppress minority races while affording the majority race (white) certain privileges. There has been an ongoing struggle to rectify this since early in the country's history. If you are keeping up with current events, you will find many stories that center around race relations.

Ethnicity is somewhat different from race. It refers to the origin of a person and their ancestors. Like race, people draw tribal lines along ethnic grounds. However, it is less used as a tool of oppression than as a form of cultural identity. Ethnicity often informs the culture of a given people as well as a sense of common identity.

Culture refers to common habits, beliefs, values, and accepted practices of a population. This can include ethnicity and race, but really can be attributed to any group of people. What is acceptable in one culture may be taboo in another.

When you consider these three concepts, and how they intersect, you can see that they impact us in countless ways. This can include the jobs people have, where people live, access to education, political representation, and the overall health of a community.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Race, ethnicity, and culture are complicated concepts that impact both individuals and societies. These three concepts can impact a person's sense of identity, which then affects how that person experiences being a part of a larger group, like the society in which that person lives. Race is often defined as a social construct that is linked with a person's skin color and other physical features, while ethnicity has to do with the nation or place from which a person comes. Culture is a word used to describe various facets of a group's way of life, and discussions around culture often include mentions of language, religion, customs, food, and family life.

Race, ethnicity and culture all impact a person's behaviors and attitudes. A person might behave in a conflict according to what he or she has observed within the context of his or her own culture. Other people may develop attitudes towards that person's behavior if the behavior reminds them of how others of the same race or ethnicity behave. The impact of such assumptions can be positive and negative, which demonstrates how complex the links between race, ethnicity, and culture can be.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Race and ethnicity, on the one hand, and culture on the other affect us in different ways.  In general, race and ethnicity impact us because they affect the ways in which other people perceive us.   (Race and ethnicity can also affect us by affecting the culture in which we grow up.)  Culture affects us because it affects the ways in which we ourselves behave. 

In the United States, race and ethnicity tend to affect how other people see us.  People tend to think of whites as the norm in the United States and to have stereotypes about non-whites.  Asians, particularly East Asians, are seen as high achievers while African Americans and Hispanics are generally perceived in a less positive light.  Non-whites have to live with these stereotypes.  At times, they even have to deal with more overt acts of racism or prejudice.

While race and ethnicity affect how other people see us and treat us, culture affects how we act and think.  (And remember, race and ethnicity can affect our culture.)  If we grow up in a rural, conservative area, we will tend to have a different culture than if we grow up in an urban area.  People from the South might have a different culture than people from New York or Boston.  Our culture affects how we think about many things including religion, patriotism, gender roles and others.  It affects the kinds of things we like to eat, the clothes we wear and the music we listen to.  In these ways, race and ethnicity on the one hand and culture on the other both affect us, but in somewhat different ways.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team