Ethnicity Etiquette

If you are any color other than white, you, like me, have probably been asked all about your shade and where it was made. And you, like me, also know that there is a right way and about a billion wrong ways to be asked about your background. Before I fill you in on the dos and don’ts of asking, let’s get our terms straight: Race vs. Ethnicity.

Race is defined by physical characteristics such as bone structure and skin, hair, and eye color.

“The term race refers to the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of physical characteristics (which usually result from genetic ancestry).”

The word race is used to separate people into groups based on HOW THEY LOOK! It is also stipulated that this is “actual OR ASSERTED” (are you serious?!). ” In the early 19th century, racial differences were ascribed significance in areas of intelligence, health, and personality. There is no evidence validating these ideas. Races are assumed to be distinguished by skin color, facial type, etc. However, the scientific basis of racial distinctions is very weak. Scientific studies show that racial genetic differences are weak except in skin color.”

So race is basically a construct with no real evidence to back it up, being used to separate people into groups based on skin color. It makes sense, as people are so eager to categorize and label things, but this just sets up the foundation for all sorts of messed up logic. Need I even begin to explain the racial mess we’re in now?

“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.”

Read that last part again people! In case you didn’t know (Donald Trump!), RACIAL GROUPS HAVE MIXED. I REPEAT, RACIAL GROUPS HAVE MIXED! So if this is true, and this is the modern world we live in, why oh why are we still having problems with race? I mean, it must be scary losing your categorization system, but the whole world is going to be brown soon, so give it up.

This brings us to Ethnicity.

Ethnicity is defined by cultural factors including nationality, regional culture, ancestry, and language.

“An ethnic group or ethnicity is a population group whose members identify with each other on the basis of common nationality or shared cultural traditions.”

Ethnicity is based on shared cultural traits and group history, though some may also go as far as sharing a language or religion.

“You are said to be able to have multiple ethnicities but only one race, even if you are mixed race.”

This again seems a little problematic, as even if you are a mix of two different races, you can still only be classified into one. How does that make any sense? You have to deny half of yourself to fit into the correct race box? I don’t think so!

So when you want to ask me about my beautiful brown skin and how it was made, the correct word to use here would be ETHNICITY, not race. I am proud of my heritage and happy to share it with you!

And this brings us to the things to keep in mind when you inevitably do! I present to you the Ethnicity Etiquette pocket flowchart! Perfect for finishing up this blog, printing and hanging anywhere in your home, or folding up to carry around in your pocket for quick reference! 😉


Ethnicity Etiquette

And, above all else, always treat others (and ask them things) the way you would want them to treat (and ask) you, no matter your color, creed or gender.



Information and quotations for this post sourced from:


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