Ethnic Groups and Racism

Topics: Race, Sociology, Ethnic group Pages: 9 (3615 words) Published: September 28, 2014



Race and ethnicity are important concepts in the field of sociology and are ones that are studied a great deal. Race plays a large role in everyday human interactions and sociologists want to study how, why, and what the outcomes are of these interactions. A race is a human population that is believed to be distinct in some way from other humans based on real or imagined physical differences. Racial classifications are rooted in the idea of biological classification of humans according to morphological features such as skin color or facial characteristics. An individual is usually externally classified (meaning someone else makes the classification) into a racial group rather than the individual choosing where they belong as part of their identity. Conceptions of race, as well as specific racial groupings, are often controversial due to their impact on social identity and how those identities influence someone's position in social hierarchies. Ethnicity, while related to race, refers not to physical characteristics but social traits that are shared by a human population. Some of the social traits often used for ethnic classification include: nationality

religious faith
shared language
shared culture
shared traditions
Unlike race, ethnicity is not usually externally assigned by other individuals. The term ethnicity focuses more upon a group's connection to a perceived shared past and culture.

Race is a socially defined category, based on real or perceived biological differences between groups of people. Ethnicity is a socially defined category based on common language, religion, nationality, history or another cultural factor. Sociologists see race and ethnicity as social constructions because they are not rooted in biological differences, they change over time, and they never have firm boundaries. Example: White

The distinction between race and ethnicity can be displayed or hidden, depending on individual preferences, while racial identities are always on display. THE SOCIOLOGICAL MEANING OF ETHNIC GROUPS AND RACISM

The classification of people into races and ethnic groups carries deep implication on the social and political life of different racial and ethnic groups. These classifications led to the notion of racial superiority and racial inferiority, culturally advanced groups and culturally disadvantaged, the use of derogatory undertones and parody, apartheid policy, discrimination and prejudice, and stereotyping of groups of people. Ethnic conflicts have been regular process within the same territorial borders and among the nations of the world. Ethnic conflicts have been pervasive and dangerous because they cause massive humanitarian suffering, civil wars, and destabilizing effects.

Sociologically, “race” refers to a group of people whom others believe are genetically distinct and whom they treat accordingly. This term is commonly used to refer to physical differences between people brought about by physical characteristics of genetic origin. This commonness of genetic heritage may be manifested in the shape of the head and face, the shape and color of the eyes, the shape of the nose, lips, and ears, the texture and color of the hair, the skin color, height, blood type and other physical characteristics. Among the significant racial categories studied by early social scientists were the Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, and the subgroups of primary and derived races. Racial differences are seen as physical differences singled out by the community or society as ethnically significant.

It is preferable to refer to ethnicity or ethnic groups rather than race for its historical and biological connotations. An ethnic group represents a number of persons who have a common cultural background as evidenced...
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