Ethnicity vs. Race


The traditional definition of race and ethnicity is related to biological and sociological factors respectively. Race refers to a person's physical appearance, such as skin color, eye color, hair color, bone/jaw structure etc. Ethnicity, on the other hand, relates to cultural factors such as nationality, culture, ancestry, language and beliefs.

For example, take the Caucasian race. The physical characteristics of Caucasians were described by M. A. MacConaill, as being "light skin and eyes, narrow noses, and thin lips. Their hair is usually straight or wavy". Caucasoids are said to have the lowest degree of projection of the alveolar bones which contain the teeth, a notable size prominence of the cranium and forehead region, and a projection of the midfacial region. A person whose appearance matches these characteristics is said to be a Caucasian. However, there are many ethnicities within the Caucasian race e.g. Irish, Welsh, German, French, Spanish (as in the true meaning from Spain) Slovak etc. What differentiates these ethnic groups from each other is their country of origin, language they speak, cultural heritage and traditions, beliefs and rituals.


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Definition An ethnic group or ethnicity is a population of human beings whose members identify with each other, on the basis of a real or a presumed common genealogy or ancestry. The term race refers to the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of physical characteristics (which usually result from genetic ancestry).
Significance Ethnicity connotes shared cultural traits and a shared group history. Some ethnic groups also share linguistic or religious traits, while others share a common group history but not a common language or religion. Race presumes shared biological or genetic traits, whether actual or asserted. In the early 19th century, racial differences were ascribed significance in areas of intelligence, health, and personality. There is no evidence validating these ideas.
Genealogy Ethnicity is defined in terms of shared genealogy, whether actual or presumed. Typically, if people believe they descend from a particular group, and they want to be associated with that group, then they are in fact members of that group. Racial categories result from a shared genealogy due to geographical isolation. In the modern world this isolation has been broken down and racial groups have mixed.
Distinguishing Factors Ethnic groups distinguish themselves differently from one time period to another. They typically seek to define themselves but also are defined by the stereotypes of dominant groups. Races are assumed to be distinguished by skin color, facial type, etc. However, the scientific basis of racial distinctions is very weak. Scientific studies show that racial genetic differences are weak except in skin color.
Nationalism In 19th century, there was development of the political ideology of ethnic nationalism -- creating nations based on a presumed shared ethnic origins (e.g. Germany, Italy, Sweden...) In 19th century, the concept of nationalism was often used to justify the domination of one race over another within a specific nation.
Legal System In the last decades of the 20th century, in the U.S. and in most nations, the legal system as well as the official ideology prohibited ethnic-based discrimination. In the last decades of the 20th century, the legal system as well as the official ideology emphasized racial equality.
Conflicts Often brutal conflicts between ethnic groups have existed throughout history and across the world. But most ethnic groups in fact get along peacefully within one another in most nations most of the time. Racial prejudice remains a continuing problem throughout the world. However, there are fewer race-based conflicts in the 21st century than in the past.
Examples of conflict Conflict between Tamil and Sinhalese populations in Sri Lanka. Conflict between white and African-American people in the U.S., especially during the civil rights movement.

Race relations

"Race relations" is one of the dominant themes in American politics from time to time, and refers to relationships between the major race groups - white, black, native American, Hispanic/Latino, "Asian" and others of mixed races.

America has also had a sometimes troubled history with ethnic strife e.g. during the waves of Irish and Italian immigration to the U.S. These immigrants were Caucasian but had a different ethnicity compared to the Anglo Saxons who preceded them, and were forced to face ethnic discrimination.

Books about race relations (


The word "Asian" used in a racial context in the United States refers to people of Southeast Asian origin, including a vast variety of ethnicities such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.

This colloquial usage is incorrect because "Asian" is not technically a race because it means someone from Asia", including people from India, Saudi Arabia, Israel and parts of Russia.

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Comments: Ethnicity vs Race

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Anonymous comments (15)

December 11, 2013, 12:19am

If Latin America is Latin, Why do we call the people who come here from Latin America Latinos and not Latin Americans. Do we call our French population Frencho Americans or Italians, Italiano Americans, what about Africano Americans or Irisho Americans. Nah we cannot call them Latin or Hispanic Americans that would make them sound American and we want them sounding very foreign. After all, we have to misname the people who come from parts of North, Central and South America because most are of either Latin European descent (who came to the Americas before the English) or of Native American descent. We need to keep up the facade that the Anglos were here first. We need to de-legitimize them and confuse the public about who they are. And if they come to this smallest part of the Americas, we'll teach their children that they are new to history in the Americas and that they sort of appeared out of thin air. Gosh the wicked witch of the west.

— 24.✗.✗.185

February 1, 2010, 7:18pm

There is only one human race. We learned that in kindergarten.

— 71.✗.✗.202

February 19, 2010, 1:36am

I would agree,but I have serious doubt how the Environment in the far in the far east make Asians look the way they do.
I doubt that can be explained with substance.

— 72.✗.✗.135

June 13, 2013, 3:09pm

When the Moors (of North Africa) invaded Spain, they dramatically altered Spain's White/European heritage.

— 66.✗.✗.5

November 26, 2013, 11:12pm

Interesting article, yet the author while appearing in trying to be fair and PC was unaware of their own racial bias as they referred to African Americans with that much more respectful and accurate term. Thus implying that using the color "Black" is not appropriate. Yet that same person gave no such respect and courtesy to European Americans by referring to them as just a color "White", thus implying that one group is more deserving of that respect than another when they wrote: Conflict between white and African-American people in the U.S., especially during the civil rights movement.
If you correct the bigoted speech of the author, it should be: Conflict between European-American and African-American people in the U.S., especially during the civil rights movement. On a personal note, I have found that racism appears in the strangest places.

— 166.✗.✗.206

June 12, 2011, 5:13am

A black skin person can be caucasian also.

— 97.✗.✗.46

June 10, 2011, 11:40am

im hispanic and it really bothers me that lately every form i fill out has- race, (pls check one)....asian, black/african-american, native-american, pacific islander/hawaian, or white....... then it will say......Or choose ethnicity, hispanic/of latin origin, or not of latin origin nor hispanic. does it make sense? what if im non of the above?

— 98.✗.✗.146

January 12, 2010, 6:21pm

Im Mexican(:


— 216.✗.✗.190

May 28, 2014, 9:30pm

"However, there are many ethnicities within the Caucasian race e.g. Irish, Welsh, German, French, Spanish (as in the true meaning from Spain) Slovak etc." I think the author has fallen prey to the common error of using Caucasian to mean white. Caucasian and white are not interchangeable--Caucasian refers to the groups who originated from the Caucasus regions (I believe this makes Caucasian an ethnicity? Not too clear on this). Caucasian people are not white.

— 206.✗.✗.2

November 27, 2013, 12:43am

To: 166.✗.✗.206,

Your argument only makes sense if you believe (which you do) that "African-American" is more respectful than "black". They are interchangeable so the fact that the author (or authors, because this is a wiki) used one or the other doesn't matter. And the fact that you believe one is more respectful than the other probably indicates that you have some latent biases.

— 24.✗.✗.48

September 26, 2013, 4:22pm

To the poster that said. " even Spain is considered white,because they are Europeans"

Lmfao! First of all there are European Blacks.
Spain people are not Latin people. They are Spanish.

Race White
Ethnicity Spanish
Nationality European get it?

Race White
Ethnicity Jewish
Nationality Israeli

Race Black
Ethnicity Jewish
Nationality Israeli

Race White
Ethnicity Slavic
Nationality Russian

Race Black
Ethnicity Carib/Carribbean
Nationality British,French or German.

Race White
Ethnicity Puerto Rican
Nationality American

Race Black
Ethnicity Puerto Rican
Nationality American

Race White
Ethnicity Irish
Nationality British

Race Black
Ethnicity Irish
Nationality British

Race Black
Ethnicity Arab
Nationality British or Saudi.

Race White
Ethnicity Asian
Nationality Chinese

Race Native American
Ethnicity Blackfoot
Nationality American.

See what happens,when people inter mix their races,and ethnicities ?
They breed ,and produce a lot of very confused people . That grow up not being able to differentiate between these three simple things. Race,Ethnicity,and Nationality. Multiculturlism is a failed experiment.What a travesty !

Do you get it? Of course you don't.

— 98.✗.✗.110

September 26, 2013, 3:56pm

This article is a joke! German,French=Ethnicity? Lmao!
It is a Nationality! Which is listed on your passport.

W t f do people confuse race,nationality,and ethnicity?

It's very simple you are White,and American or a Black American .
Period! End of story!

— 98.✗.✗.110

May 23, 2013, 2:01am

Theres only one race the human race. You are a racist if you see skin color anyways

— 98.✗.✗.17

May 20, 2013, 3:25pm

Um there call Spain,butt thats not consider Latino...Latino is Latin no there may be Latinos visiting Europe but those who live there are called Spanish...Even Spain is considered white because they are European.

— 24.✗.✗.64

March 25, 2013, 4:01am

You do realize that you are the stupid one for making that comment? Yes there are Latinos in Southern Europe. Just because they are of European ethnicity does not mean they are white? I find you very arrogant. Native Americans are ethnically Native American but if you study up you will find out that Native Americans are not "Native" at all. They came and took over the lands long ago just as for example "early Romans" came and defeated the Latin tribes of Italy.

— 207.✗.✗.203


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