PEOPLE often use the terms race and ethnicity interchangeably without knowing they actually do not meet the same thing.
Both terms are used to categorize sections of the population, but when do you use each one?
People often use race and ethnicity interchangeably when they shouldn’tCredit: Getty
What is the definition of race?
Race refers to one’s physical traits, their outward appearance.
In other words, it can be used to describe traits you have inherited.
Race is also much more narrow than ethnicity, which is exclusively based on one’s similar physical and biological attributes.
Merriam-Webster defines race as “a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits.’
This includes traits that are associated with biology and linked to one’s physical characteristics.
This includes one’s hair texture, skin color, and other more specific options.
However, people of similar complexions or other physical traits can be defined as different races.
What is the definition of ethnicity?
Ethnicity refers to one’s cultural identity.
It can also be defined as something you have learned rather than were born with.
Ethnicity tends to be much broader than race, based on one’s cultural expression and place of origin.
Because ethnicity tends to be a much broader term to describe a person’s identity, it’s commonly used to categorize groups of people.
This depends on one’s cultural expression and identification as the term used.
Some commonalities include racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin.
When would you use which word?
There are times when either filling out an identification form or when describing a person, you would be asked to identify by race and/or ethnicity.
Government forms like the census asks for both one’s race and ethnicity as a way to get the best genetic makeup of the country’s population.
However, there are many problems that come with either term.
For one, people tend to be ambiguous in how many categories they fit in.
Someone could be racially one trait but ethnically another, just as it is difficult to check a box for those of multiple races or ethnicities.
However, people are more similar than they are different.
According to the human genome project, 99.9 percent of everyone’s DNA is the same.
Humans have the same 99.9% DNACredit: Getty