General Question

dotlin's avatar

What's the difference between race and ethnicity?

Asked by dotlin (422points) July 22nd, 2010

or are they the same?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

17 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Some people say that there is no such thing as race, only ethnicity. To me that doesn’t make any sense, since people talk about race all the time. Probably the language is in flux, and it will take time for the PC word ethnicity to replace the currently common word race.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t have official definitions, I am sure many people will post some. My personal definitions are race has to do with what part of the world you are from and characteristics like skin color, facial features, and hair. Many will say there is not such thing as race, there is only a human race, and I like that way of thinking, but there is no getting around that people from certain geographical areas have genetic traits in common. Ethnicity for me is cultural norms that are shared by a group.

KatawaGrey's avatar

The word “race” refers to some very specific biological features. There are only three races: Mongoloid which the Asian population most closely still resembles, Caucasoid which white people most closely still resemble, and Negroid which black people most closely still resemble. However, there no longer any “pure blood” members of these races or if there are, they are few and far between as there has been a whole bunch of inter-marrying, conquering and general “mixing” of the races. The oldest of these would be Negroid as the oldest human ancestors originated in the region which is now Ethiopia and spread outward to fill the rest of the world.

“Ethnicity” refers to region or sometimes country of origin. This is generally what people mean when they refer to all the different races such as Asian, African, European, Hispanic, Polynesian, Caribbean, etc. As I said though, it can sometimes refer to people from a specific country or group of countries. For example, someone can be a member of the Caucasoid race and be of Italian ethnicity. You could also refer to this person as someone of Mediterranean ethnicity. However, people do not necessarily have to belong to the same race as they do ethnicity. Moroccans, for example, are generally members of the Negroid race but are also of Mediterranean ethnicity.

syzygy2600's avatar

I’ve always looked at it this way, to use myself as an example: my race is white, ethnically I am mostly Irish and Scottish, and to a lesser extent, Jewish, English, and Portuguese. Race is a very basic classification, ethnicity is more in depth.

answerjill's avatar

In sociology, we often just use the term “race/ethnicity” if we don’t want to deal with making distinctions.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@YARNLADY Just because people talk about something and it’s a lived reality doesn’t mean it actually exists – aka religion, for ya..
to the OP: people define race and ethnicity differently – to some their race is their ethnicity and to some it isn’t – I’d say I’m categorized into the ‘white race’ but my ethnicity is Russian? Armenian? American? – I certainly reject my ethnicities as nothing more that what mixes of genetics I’ve got and some lived experience…my race…others will say I’m white and that’s what race is – what others say you are.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Good point. At a biological level, it becomes a totally different argument.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@YARNLADY Well, that’s the thing – the categorization began at this biological level but was never left there – same today.


KatawaGrey said it the best. For example, I am of the Mongoloid race, but my ethnicity is Chinese and Japanese (as my father was born in China and my mother was born in Japan). To further my identity, my “nationality” is Canadian, because I was born and raised in Canada. Ethnicity is a more specific term than race, and hence ethnic Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Koreans can be all grouped under the Mongoloid race.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Didn’t know anyone still used the term ‘mongoloid’.


@Simone_De_Beauvoir Lol——Actually, I rarely hear the term “Mongoloid” used these days. Personally, I find it “sounds” rather derogatory, but it’s still used.

Andreas's avatar

@All As the point of nationality has been raised, I’d like to raise this side point if the MODS permit. An “American”, for example, is a mixture of ethnicity AND race AND nationalities, and an “Australian” is similar, but to a lesser degree, maybe. So in a sense “Americans” and “Australians” are “mongrel” races/ethnicities/nationalities because of this huge mix of these three things. My point now is this: In the end none of this is really important at all as we’re all people of varying qualities/likes/hatreds/loves/etc.

Just my two-cents.

JLeslie's avatar

@answerjill Makes sense. In sociology you are grouping people by whatever reasonably creates a group or a subgroup. The Federal government, marketing, all do the same thing.


@Andreas Lol—“mongrel” ! Oh my! ;)

Andreas's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Mongrel is just one of those words that tells more than the literal word itself. One of my favourites. Speaking of my own race, etc: I definitely fit this description.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I embrace the mongrel label! Our families are mongoloid and cacausoid :)

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