What is called ‘‘race’’ in one country might be labeled ‘‘ethnicity’’ in another. However, it is important to know that the two is in fact not interchangeable as they both have different meanings. In this comparative essay, I will compare the two and thus in the process list what differs between race and ethnicity, as well as the similarities between the two. Furthermore, my claims will be backed up by real examples that will further emphasize my points.
As I have explained in the introduction, I do not agree with the fact that race and ethnicity are sometimes used interchangeably. First I would have to define the two terms. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, race is defined as “a social concept, a group of people who share similar and distinct physical characteristics,” whilst ethnicity, according to the same dictionary is defined as “a social group that shares a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like”. By reading the definitions alone, we can already see the differences between the two terms. Whilst, race focuses more on one’s physical characteristics, such as being black or white, ethnicity deals with people with shared cultural traits and shared group history. Furthermore, 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. On the other hand, 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.
Take example of the Caucasian race. Its physical characteristics is described by M. A. MacCoaill, an Irish anatomy professor, as including “light skin and eyes, narrow noses, and thin lips. Their hair is usually straight or wavy.” Furthermore Caucasians are usually described to have a notable size prominence of the cranium and forehead region, and a projection of the mid-facial region. A person whose appearance matches these characteristics may be defined as a Caucasian. Caucasians are found throughout the world, thus one may find a person of Caucasian race in the United States who shares certain racial characteristics with a Caucasian person from Italy. They are both of the same race, but the two have different ethnic backgrounds – one American, the other Italian. They