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Difference Between Ethnicity and Race

tibetansEthnicity 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.

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  1. It seems to me that the writer of this article is mixing up ethnicity with culture/heritage. Your culture is subjective and in the minds of the people of the group but both race and ethnicity are not, they are un changeable. Also the writer claim that you would not be able to tell the difference between an irish, ‘israeli’ and a Canadian, I believe this is false, 2 of these groups of people have vastly different features which could differentiate them from each other, a picture of all 3 would show many differences from complexion, to facial features to even hair texture and both are actually not even considered as Caucasians. Irish are celts,a person of typical irish look is quite different from the typical Western European look and as an irish person I can say I can quite easily spot other irish people. An ‘Israeli’ will generally be thought to mean a Semite, with Semitic features and again most Jewish people will tell you they can spot there own ethnicity quite easily. Similarly 3 dark skinned people from Eritrea, Ghana and Sri Lanka may all have the same complexion but are quite obviously all ethnically and racially different. The problem with how western society views race is that the whole ideology was created by western white people who come from countries with a colonial history and they created race on the premise of there being west African blacks, Western European whites and every other racial/ethnic group are just others, this is a falsehood and if you look at race along these thin lines you will have no chance of understanding ethnic groups

  2. Diet, mindset and climate(epigenetics) contribute more to physical features than true ancestry(genes), per se. Actual genes eventually do get changed with some impact from these, over time. I bet you, there are blacks who will look just like whites, if their skin tone and hair were to change by some magic spell. And there are whites who look black, save for their skin color. There are East Asians(Japanese, Chinese or Vietnamese) who look like Hottentots(blacks) of South Africa but for color and hair.

    More, black Africa has the most diverse genes and features of any group under the sun that you may want to call ‘race’, which is not unrelated to the diverse climate in Africa; and that explains why Africa is the cradle of humanity. Of all the races, whites are the closest to Africans as far as genes are concerned, since they form the latest wave of migration from the Homeland, possibly as a result of some kin and kith rivalry; hence their similar tall build or body type and aggressiveness towards one another; and would explain why ‘sibling rivalry’ persists amongst these two till today; and may account for the revenge act of slavery on Africans in the more recent past centuries and the racism of today.

    The Asians had left Africa much earlier. But because climate and diet have a much more profound effect on looks–Europe is much colder and grows temperate crops compared to tropical Asia with a similar climate to Africa–more African features persist in Asia, among the Melanesians of, for example, Papua New Guinea, including Indonesia. The Asians most likely left from among the Hottentots of S. Africa; and the East Indians will have left from among the Abyssinians(Ethiopians). Both groups are on the East coast, closest to Asia. The American Indians probably broke away from among the West Africans, on the coast closest to the Americas.

    Does anyone wonder why Melanesians look African but have Asian genes? From a genetic viewpoint whites are much closer to Africans than are the black-African look-alike-Melanesians. Which race would you place the Melanesians? If Asian because of their genes, why do they look African in every aspect of their physical features(nose, hair and skin color)? If you think they are African, because you see them so, who then is deceiving who as to the meaning of race? Tell me then what will happen to the genes hypothesis of race? It falls apart, right? To me the word race should just not be used. It makes no logical or common sense. Try to advocate and you are just being delusional.

    • I agree with your assessment and think that perhaps the word nationality would be a more accurate word. Race is not reality but merely an idea created to divide and give prominence to the various differences in humanity.

      • Race is 100% in your mind and science has proven that. It has MUCH LESS to do with what makes you human. What makes you human is being human. You all put so much emphasis on the skin tone and it really is only something that makes me look different from you – like you face. And as far as the White race “having revenge” — that is absurdity at it’s finest. Egypt never had slaves — that was a lie and that too has been proven. What you are suggesting, Europeans have also done to themselves. You’ve heard of the Vikings? It seems to be that Europeans are just inherently violent and YES, I do believe it has everything to do with the Neanderthal. Probably a very violent creature. I believe they raped those humans they crossbred with. I really do.

  3. The teaches that God made plant and animal life according to their kinds( Genesis 1: 11,12, 21, 24, 25). The Bible does not define the boundaries of these “kinds.” This allows for a degree of variation within each kind. Same goes for the human race.

  4. Jews are not Caucasian.

    • then what are they? did you know north africans are considered Caucasian? it has less to do with looks and more to do with how people in power define races.

      • Jans, I think what Jim is saying is that Jews are more tied to Arabs or anybody non European origin. Most people who have a hatred towards Jews (not saying Jim hates Jews), will say that they that they have no “pure” European bloodlines. Which is a laugh because the likes,of Ghengis Khan and the Ottoman empire already helped in screwing up some of that “pure European race”.

        • I am not in the fight mode, but Mekk could you please explain to me the connection to your statement above, which I have quoted below while attempting to explain to Jans, Jim’s statement.

          “Most people who have a hatred towards Jews (not saying Jim hates
          Jews), will say that they that they have no “pure” European bloodlines.


          • Rafael, there are many people of Jewish heritage who have strong European heritage and they are considered white no doubt. Originally or biblically before they became mixed with other races they were middle eastern with no ties to Europe, I don’t even think Europe was ever in the picture during Abraham or Moses’s time as Africa or the rest of the middle east. You probably knew this. So, if I am correct Jim’s using that as his reasoning, that they did not come from that typical viking “blue eyed blonde haired” original European heritage. Which again I find laughable, because there are people in Iceland like Bjork, and in Denmark like Mads Mikkelson, who very much appear to have strong Asian ties, so Europe was never really made up of one pure race in my opinion.

    • Judaism is a religion, just as Christian is a religion. So to be Jewish is not a race or an ethnicity. That would be like calling my ethnicity Christian. NO. Get a clue people…..People from Israel or considered Israeli.

  5. What word other than “Jewish” can refer to both a religion and an ethnicity? I can’t think of one. Anyone?

  6. @Blessyn Variation does not account for either extinction or novel modern creation of either plants or animals, but earthly experience does. Variation, as well as, extinction and creation, among plants and animals, is a gene encoded response [DNA and RNA] to environmentally encountered clues (experience).

  7. This is incorrect. If we are to believe what this says there would be thousands of “races”, when in reality there are 3.

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