Race and Ethnicity


The concepts of race and ethnicity are the most common ways of grouping people in the society. However, the two concepts apply different characteristics that are perceived to be shared by all people who belong to a definite group. Despite the long and historical usage of these terms in Britain, not many people can draw a clear-cut line between them. This confusion arises from the fact that race and ethnic labels in the British society are not based on criteria that everyone can agree with, understand or even use. O’Neil (2006) noted that one may be labelled in a way he or she considers offensive and inaccurate. The three principal races in Britain include Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid.

Healey (2006, p. 4) defines ethnicity as a population of people whose members identify with each other on the basis of a believed or a real common genealogy. It represents cultural traits and social history that is shared by all members of the group. Although some ethnic groups share religious and linguistic traits, such traits can also be used to infer an individual’s ethnicity (Heaven & Hudson 2001). Additionally, other ethnic groups share group history without necessarily sharing linguistic and religious traits.

On the other hand, race is defined as a concept of categorizing people into groups based on some sets of physical appearances that result from their genetic ancestry (Thompson 2005, p. 81). As such, race presumes shared biological traits, which can be asserted or real. It is a concept that sprung up from historical assumptions such as the mythical relationship between people’s racial genetics and their intelligence. In 1986, the then Japanese Prime Minister Yauhiro Nakasone pointed at this myth by highlighting Japanese racial homogeneity as a source of their mental strength against the IQ standards in the United States (Trinity University 2012). His argument was based on the assumption that the Hispanics and Blacks in America had inferior mental capability compared to Whites.

Differences between Race and Ethnicity

According O’Neil (2006), the concepts of race and ethnicity are distinguished on the basis of their contributing factors. While the concept of race is used to refer to presumed biological characteristics of individuals, ethnicity denotes people’s sociological factors such as nationality, ancestry, believes, culture and language (O’Neil 2006). Peoples’ physical appearance such as skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, and bone structure, among others, are used to group them into different races.

Whereas an individual’s race is unchangeable, ethnicity can be changed when an individual wants to identify with one ethnic group or the other. Even though, one may share language or religious traits with one ethnic group, he or she can still identify with that ethnic group in other traits such as culture and historical background (Knowles 2010, p. 13). On the contrary, one’s race is based on genetically influenced physical appearance that cannot be changed overtime as ethnicity. Thompson (2005, p. 82) says that ethnicity is all about how one relates to himself or herself while racism is on the basis of how he or she looks like.

Watson (2007, p. 23) emphasizes the fact that the most significant quality of ethnicity is that it is not related to biology. An individual’s ethnicity is flexible and can be transformed by learning or assimilation into other cultures and religious practices. For instance, the Africans and Asians who migrated into the United Kingdom changed some of their original cultural practices. In this regard, they lost their original ethnic identity without losing their racial identity. As a result, they are referred to as Black Africans in the British population census (Heaven & Hudson 2001). The main point is that whereas ethnicity can be a superficial and momentary identity, race is always presumed to be grounded and profound in biological realities of the human-being (Watson 2007, p. 23).

In the light of the above discussions, it is possible to find several races within a single ethnic group. As some researchers pointed out, there are several distinguishable genetic variations within a single geographic ethnicity (Watson 2007, p. 310). In the same breadth, people from different ethnic groups can be racially grouped together. For instance, the existence of White British and White Irish depicts the existence of common genetic makeup in two different ethnic groups.

Despite the permanence of racial identity in individuals, it is worthy to note that race is more fictional than ethnicity. Moore (1996, p. 12) points out that race is an invented identity since people are subconsciously labelled with a given racial group without scientific prove of their biological similarities. Ethnicity “is based on the reality of cultural similarities and differences and interests that they represent” (Britannica 2012).

Relevance of Allport’s Scale in Examining the Nature of Prejudice and Discrimination in Britain

Allport’s scale of prejudice and discrimination is a means of measuring the extent of prejudice in a society based on 1-5 scale. Gordon Allport devised this scale in 1954 in his book titled The Nature of Prejudice. The scale came from the assignment he was given, by the United States’ government, to investigate the psychological causes of the infamous Holocaust (Healey 2006, p. 124). Given the nature of this assignment, Allport had to develop a measuring system that would highlight different stages of prejudice progress, from negligible behaviours to the extreme acts of persecution and termination of the minority groups. Despite the many years that this system has been in existence, its relevance in measuring the nature of prejudice and discrimination in Britain cannot be doubted.

In tune with Allport’s scale, discrimination and prejudice in the British society ranges from smaller behaviours such as making offensive jokes about an individual in a manner that depicts racism to the extreme acts of killing a group of people because of their racial original (Moore 1996, p. 30). The antilocution is the lowest end of Allport’s scale that measures the negligible behaviours such as name-calling targeting a given group of people. This is the stage where behaviours are taken as normal constituent being part of the society’s way of life. The racial prejudice and discrimination, at this level, are assumed normal and are usually unquestioned (Watson 2007, p. 45).

The next level of the scale, avoidance, measures the physical or factual avoidance where members of the minority group are excluded or segregated from other groups assumed to be superior (Watson 2007, p. 45). In the British society, this level of discrimination or prejudice has always been witnessed in sports such as football. Some football clubs tend to avoid members of the black population in their membership. The impact of this was seen in the main theme of 2012 London Olympics, which all was about racial discrimination, as a way of curbing the vice of racism.

The third scale on the Allport’s system deals with discrimination, which is characterized by unfair treatment, directed towards an individual or group of people. Though Race Relations Act has dealt with such discriminations in the UK, this scale is still needed to monitor the progress of race relations at workplace, school, housing policies, and other pertinent areas (Legislation 2012).

On an almost extreme end, physical attack scale seeks to address the attacks directed towards people or their properties. The destruction of religious literature and houses are some of the practices that are pertinent to this stage. In the British school system, some blacks and other students from the minority groups have sometimes found their books and personal belongings destroyed (Thompson 2005, p. 197).

Lastly, the extermination scale addresses the most adverse level of discrimination where certain community’s total elimination is the subject (Watson 2007, p. 47). Even though, the Holocaust-like practice has not been witnessed in the UK, other extreme frustrations of the minority in school and employment system may eliminate these people from such systems. The scale is, therefore, required to avoid cases of suicide of citizens due to such extreme treatment.

Part II: Report

Importance of Sociological Research into Discrimination in Relating With Different People

Technical Understanding of Races and Ethnicity

The sociological researches into discrimination have provided both scientific and systematic understanding of the society in which we exist. Before, people with varied physical appearances and ethnic differences were stereotyped based on some mythical backgrounds. However, sociological researches in to racial discrimination have shown that an individual’s race has no genetic basis. People who have been labelled to belong to one race can never be distinguished by any single genetic trait (California Newsreel 2003, p. 1). In fact, a research by California Newsreel (2003) revealed that most variations in the human makeup exist within a race, and not between races. The research reported that there is extremely small amount of variation in the human makeup, and eighty five (85) per cent of the total amount of variation exists within any local population. Moreover, ninety four (94) per cent of this variation can be found within one continent (California Newsreel 2003, p. 1). Following these findings, a myth such as one racial group is genetically superior over others should never hinder my relationship with people from different races and continents.

Highlight of Effects of Discrimination on Society

Secondly, the negative effects highlighted by studies on the past racial discriminations have boosted my relationship with different people. The mass destruction of the human race that was experienced in Holocaust pointed at the need to condemn all forms of discrimination (California Newsreel 2003, p. 1). I, therefore, understand that sound interpersonal relationship is highly influential in conserving human race in any society. As a result, I always endeavour to avoid any issue that might negatively affect my relationship with people from different backgrounds.

Improved Understanding of Origin of Race and Ethnicity

Since the advent of literacy, ignorance has been quoted as the worst tragedy that can happen to a man. Several people, including me, must have fallen in discriminatory acts, in which the society mythical made them believe (O'Neil 2006). Therefore, I admire sociological researchers for the historical account of racial and ethnic issues that they have made available. The understanding of the differential access and unequal allocation systems that historically existed in leading countries, like the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada among others, makes me understand the reasons why lower status of the minority groups is observed in these countries.

This historical understanding eliminates the assumption that the minority groups are in the lower social classes and are underrepresented in top government jobs, because they are genetically inferior (Healey 2006, p. 185). As such, these historical accounts have shaped my relationship with people of different backgrounds in a manner that respects their innate potential regardless of the social, academic or professional position they occupy.

These historical accounts of race and ethnicity have emphasised the reality that different people belong to different races. Therefore, dealing with the issues of racism should not be addressed by pretending that race does not exist. Instead, strategies that embrace this fact should be developed to advocate for equality and equity across racial groups (California Newsreel 2003, p. 1). In my relationship with other people, these historical accounts have challenged me to accept the existence of race and treat everyone in the best humane way appropriate to them.

Additionally, the historical insights presented by the sociological researchers can validate the inference that all human beings are equal and can perform in a relatively equal measure if they were to be subjected to the same work and social conditions (California Newsreel 2003, p. 1). Based on this reality, I have been able to cultivate better functional environment with everybody regardless of the racial and ethnic differences between us.

Equips With Necessary Skills to Solve Social Problems

Drawing from Healey (2006, p. 120), problems and conflicts are part of human live. However, the sociological researches and the sociology course works have equipped me with social powers to solve such social problems and conflicts that may arise during my interaction with people from diverse backgrounds. The study of how past racial conflicts in the world history and the ways how they were solved are some sources for racial resolution insights. The story of Holocaust and the Nazis regime has served as my motivation towards embracing peace among people within my reach. My understanding of several aspects of the society has been improved to help me cope with different talents, capabilities and limitations among people.

Highlights Our Interdependency on One Another

Several researches in racial and other forms of discrimination have constantly illuminated social nature of every man. As much as one racial group may claim to be superior to others, they have to live with the reality of their interdependence on those other groups. When the British community was facing the two World Wars, they needed people from other races to help them maintain their superiority at war. Their dependence on blacks and Asians grew even higher after the wars. They needed more labour for their farms and industries (Moore 1996, p. 132). It is humbling to note that even the historical slaves needed their masters for their survival.

New sociological researches point out that human interdependence is more real today than ever. Every facet of person’s livelihood has been globalised, and specialization has become common in every community, nation, profession, and even in academic disciplines (Moore 1996, p. 290). Going by this trend, I am convinced that favourable interpersonal relationships are particularly critical, both for personal and communal success. The new trend in the world football managements speaks loudly that any race or gender activist can advocate for racial cohesion.

Today, it is almost impossible to find a football club whose members are of the same race, or rather come from the same continent, if I may say. However, the teamwork spirit that is required in football team can only be achieved in the total absence of any discrimination (Healey 2006, p. 297). These new revelations have worked together in changing my attitude towards people of different background from mine. Consequently, this change of attitude has shaped me to be more patient and lenient when dealing with such people.

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