In this essay we will look at what is meant by social scientists terms ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ the role in which they play when forming an identity and how ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ affects identities, looking briefly at essentialism . This essay will then draw to the conclusion of how ‘race and ‘ethnicity’ impacts on the formation of identity. When we talk of ‘race’ we think of the colour of skin, the texture of hair and also facial features that are past through generations.
The dictionary defines race as “a group of persons related by common descent or heredity” (Dictionary. om 2009) leading us to assume that it is more of a biological definition however as the markers of the biological facts are unclear social scientists consider the term ‘race’ to be more of a social construct as a person who is considered black in one society might be non black in another. ‘Ethnicity’ is slightly easier to define. It “refers to a group or community that is assumed to share the cultural practices (religion, language and territory inclusive) and history” (Woodward, K. , 2004 p. 124).
You can also look at the ‘race’ as being slightly more of a biological categorization and for ‘ethnicity’ to refer more towards the cultural side of things. In a personal study carried out on people of different ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ the subjects were asked to describe themselves and all used their ‘race’ or/and our ‘ethnicity’ as part of their identity first and foremost followed by other characteristics that they would use to described themselves such as religion, gender, what they go for a living, interest or a group they belong to.
Race’ and ‘ethnicity’ are ways in which with we either affiliate ourselves with a collective group or differentiate ourselves from that group showing that both ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ play a very important role in characterising ones identity. However ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ can sometimes be subject to essentialism, within ‘ethnic groups’ you may find that there are several different ‘races’ so in effect what we are doing when we essentialise a group is we take away the differences between the ‘races’ in that group conglomerate them all into one identity that has a fixed characteristic and then comparing that against our own.
It can cause tension as we see people of a certain ‘ethnicity’ differently to how they see themselves or wish to be seen we also then put limitations on their identity but this limitation can also disrupt how they are treated within society. When an identity is formed and is subject to racialization and ethnicization it can cause inequality between groups. There may be issues of racist violence among ethnic minorities, unfair employment and pay influences.
Everyone in society has an ethnicity and if we chose that ethnicity not by ourselves then it is ascribed to us but in the same respect if we all have an ethnicity then why and who decides which ethnicity is the majority and minority? Do we look at the fact that White people seem to have no ethnicity however whiteness is an identity that has been ethnicized and racialized and is also part of the social structure. How is it that all other ‘ethnicities’ are compared to whiteness and whiteness is the majority group?
Can this boil down to numbers or social constructions within our own ethnicity that we are positioned higher than everyone else and for what reason? In conclusion to this ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ has such a big impact on the formation of an identity from the basics of it affecting the way we see ourselves to the way others see us and causing possible tension, it can impact on how our identity is categorized and then that categorization can therefore dealt with accordingly when it comes to things such as employment, pay and social acceptance.
All of this can cause uncertainty in relation to things such as gender the workplace and socially and this uncertainty is not just local or national but a global issue of social acceptance and social constraints the structure to which use to form our identities.