What Is The Difference Between Race And Ethnicity Essay Topics

Ethnicity vs Race

Very few of us accurately describe the difference between ethnicity and race, simply because we tend to lump them into the same definition. While the dictionary can represent each of these words to be highly similar, there are differences.

Ethnicity is not just a person’s race. We can say that a Caucasian is white, but that doesn’t describe his ethnicity. If we lined up a Caucasian from Ireland, Israel and Canada in a photograph, it would be difficult to discern from which country each person originates. Yet, if we gave them appropriate items from their culture, it becomes easier to determine their country of origin. Ethnicity is about tradition, learned behavior and customs. It is about learning where you come from, and celebrating the traditions and ideas that are part of that region.

At one time it was easy to tell one’s ethnicity, but as the global conglomeration offered more choice and change (as well as borrowing styles and ideas from other cultures), it has become impossible to identify ethnicity based solely on distinctive features.

Ethnicity gives us room to change because we can reject our own and embrace another. You can move from one region to another and assimilate your beliefs, actions and customs to identify with that ethnic orientation. You cannot do the same with race.

Race is your biologically engineered features. It can include skin color, skin tone, eye and hair color, as well as a tendency toward developing certain diseases. It is not something that can be changed or disguised. Race does not have customs or globally learned behavior. Going back to our three Caucasians, each could be cloned and placed in different cultures throughout the world that were primarily not Caucasian. While their behavior would change, their physical and biological features would not.

Race can be used to describe other elements of biological and regional differences. For instance, you can be born Jewish (which is usually referred to as a religion), but it does not mean that you have embraced the Jewish customs or religious beliefs. In such cases, the same term can be used to describe either ethnicity or race.

Ethnicity does not always describe color either. One can claim to be African, which indicates an entire multi-regional, multi-cultural continent. You can enhance the definition by assigning a sub culture to the ethnicity, such as South African, or Ethiopian. There can be a wide range of skin colors and tones throughout Africa, ranging from the white skin and fair haired faces many associate with the Aryan race to the dark skin, black haired faces that many associate with African regions.


1. Ethnicity is about the learned cultural behaviors celebrated throughout regions around the world.

2. Race is an indication of the heritage with which you were born, regardless of location or learned behavior.

3. Ethnicity can be altered or mimicked through choice and beliefs.

4. Race cannot be altered.

Lathan K. "Difference Between Ethnicity and Race." DifferenceBetween.net. September 6, 2011 < http://www.differencebetween.net/science/nature/difference-between-ethnicity-and-race/ >.

Essay about Race and Ethnicity

487 Words2 Pages

Upon entering the class I was anxious, curious, and also oblivious to the ideas I would be encountering. Like other students who had not previously spent time discussing topics of race and ethnicity, I myself had nervous tendencies in assuming that such a class may not strengthen my understanding of ethnic and race relations. I realized I knew little about race or ethnicity, and even the possible similarities or differences. However, I welcomed the opportunity to further discover the possibilities of the class. My understanding of race was concentrated in a definition that could be understood as different skin colors. My limited conception of ethnicity applied to people’s origin or where they lived. It seemed as though my lack of…show more content…

Explanations as to why such areas seemed trivial in my life may possibly be found in the life I have lived.
My pre-adolescent years were spent in a community thick with diversity. My friendships were as diverse as the environment in which I lived. It never struck me that racial and ethnic ideals separated people in society. However, upon moving to a predominately white upper-class community I began to question such racial and ethnic ideas. From my adolescent years through today I began noticing that certain people are viewed differently for reasons relating to race and ethnicity. As a result, the most recent community I grew up in has kept me sheltered from aspects of society. As a product of a community where majorities existed, I found myself unexposed to the full understanding of race and ethnicity. Prior to the class I had never fully dealt with issues of race or ethnicity, as a result I wondered why they would be of any importance in my life.
Nonetheless, these feeling changed. Even though my understanding of ethnicity and race was limited my interest for understanding grew. For example, one weekend among peers at Connecticut College my last name was referred to in conversation about the Jewish population on campus. Without any hesitation the people around me highlighted a distinction that I was not Jewish due to my German name and looks, and therefore not included with the concern of the discussion. I came to wonder why such a distinction was made. I knew that

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