a person's ethnic background

An ethnicity, is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation.

Vibrant human diversity is now commonplace in major cities throughout the world. Some celebrate such a mix of human diversity. Others deplore it, preferring that so-called races be separated both geographically and reproductively. Even today, some people retain the once-popular belief that the 'white' race is superior in intellect, health, and other attributes. Although far more people reject the notion of white supremacy today than in the past, its legacy remains, as evidenced by economic stratification, ongoing segregation, and classification by racial categories. Even among those who reject the supposed superiority of a particular ethnicity over any other, the perception of distinct, genetically determined human races often persists. ~ Daniel J. Fairbanks


  • I think most people associate race with biology and ethnicity with culture. It's important to stress the culture and language part of it. Ethnicity isn't just a question of affiliation; it's also a question of choice. It's also a question of group membership. And it's usually associated with a geographic region. It's also often confused or conflated with nationality, but that's not the same thing. Today people identify with ethnicity positively because they see themselves as being part of that group. People can't just simply say, "Well, I want to become a member of that race." You either are or are not a member of that race. Whereas, if you wanted to look at ethnicity based on culture, you could learn a language, you can learn customs - there are things that you can learn so that you could belong to that group.
  • 'Two peoples never meet,' the American anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits once wrote, 'but they mingle their blood.' Mingling, however, is only one of a range of options when two diverse human populations meet. The minority group may remain distinct for breeding purposes but become integrated into the majority group in all or some other respects (language, religious belief, dress, lifestyle). Alternatively, interbreeding can go on, at least for a time, but one or both of the two groups may nevertheless preserve or even adopt distinct cultural or ethnic identities. Here is an important distinction. Whereas 'race' is a matter of inherited physical characteristics, transmitted from parents to children in DNA, 'ethnicity' is a combination of language, custom and ritual, inculcated in the home, the school and the temple. It is perfectly possible for a genetically intermixed population to split into two or more biologically indistinguishable but culturally differentiated ethnic groups. The process may be voluntary, but it may also be based on coercion - notably where major changes of religious belief are concerned. One or both groups may even opt for residential and other forms of segregation; the majority may insist that the minority lives in a clearly delineated space, or the minority may choose to do so for its own reasons. The two groups may cordially ignore one another, or there may be friction, perhaps leading to civil strife or one-sided massacres. The groups may fight one another or one group may submit to expulsion by the other. Genocide is the extreme case, in which one group attempts to annihilate the other.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. xlvii
  • Science fiction implies that the knots of terrestrial racism will eventually loosen because Terrans will have to unite against the aliens, androids, or BEMs [Bug-Eyed Monsters] of the galaxy. Under these circumstances, humans become remarkable for their humanity, not their ethnicity. Robert Scholes seems to have this concept in mind when he remarks that science fiction as a form “has been a bit advanced in its treatment of race and race relations. Because of their orientation toward the future, science fiction writers frequently assumed that America’s major problem in this area—black/white relations—would improve or even wither away.“ . . . While Scholes and others conveniently assume that distinctions based on race will become invalid in possible future worlds and that it is therefore unnecessary for a character to have a distinct racial background, their presumed total eradication of distinctions based on color or ethnicity seems doubtful short of the Millenium.
    • Sandra Y. Govan, "The Insistent Presence of Black Folk in the Novels of Samuel R. Delany", BlackAmerican Literature Forum 18.2 (1984): p. 44

See also

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