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Difference Between Race and Ethnicity

Race vs Ethnicity

Race is the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics whereas; Ethnicity is belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition and customs.

Race and ethnicity are two words that appear to be similar but have some difference. Race may be taken to mean a major division of humankind. Race would give rise to distinct physical characteristics. Ethnicity does not indicate a person’s race. Ethnicity is all about tradition and customs.

Ethnicity in fact tells about where you are from. It suggests the tradition and customs that belong to the region you are from. Although one’s ethnicity was easily found many years ago, it has been becoming increasingly difficult of late to establish one’s ethnicity by taking into consideration one’s features alone.

Race is indicative of the heritage to which you belong. It has nothing to do with your location or scholarship. It is very important to know that you can never alter your race. Ethnicity can be altered though.

You cannot describe your color by ethnicity. You can after all say you are an Australian and it indicates the entire continent. At the most you can limit your location by saying you are a Queenslander. Color is thus associated with race and not with ethnicity.

A race is more or less a biological subspecies. A race thus indicates a population that has anatomical resemblance among its members. It is often seen that race and ethnicity are interchangeably used. It may not be right to do so. Racial classification has certainly to do with morphological features. Ethnicity on the contrary has nothing to do with morphological features.

One of the main differences between race and ethnicity is that race is unitary. It is important to understand that a person can belong to one race only. Although he belongs to just one race, he can still have multiple ethnic connections. You can call person an African or a Polish, but if you want to call him in terms of race then you can call him either white or black. Thus race is socially imposed where as ethnicity is not socially imposed.


The main differences between race and ethnicity are:

  • A race is a biological subspecies where as ethnicity does not refer to any subspecies.
  • Race is unitary in character whereas ethnicity is not unitary in character.
  • Race has everything to do with morphological features whereas ethnicity has nothing to do with morphological features.


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