Tag Archives: community

Why Do We Have Racial & Ethnic Categories?

Why do we have racial and ethnic categories? Are these categories there to divide or protect us? What’s the difference between “race” and “ethnicity” anyway? When does someone become just plain “American?”

It appears to be very difficult for most of us, when put on the spot, to define “race” or to describe the difference between “race” and ethnicity.Diversity & Unity_quiz1 Part4

Most people think that “race” is a biological category – something in our genes, and that ethnicity has to do with unusual foods or customs. But, “race” is a social, not a biological, category.
Beginning with the first Census Report in 1790, and every 10 years after, the U.S. government has asked us to identify ourselves. But the categories of “race” and ethnicity we’ve had to select from have been ever shifting! Since 1900 alone, over 26 different racial terms have been used to categorize the U.S. population. People once thought to be of separate “races”, for example, the Irish, Italians, and Jews, are now all considered Caucasian.

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Why is it always Us versus Them?

What is it that divides us?

How can we learn to understand those who are different from us? How can we help others to understand and appreciate who we are?

Our families, friends, schools and communities have a huge influence on who we become as adults. People who help form our perceptions of the world are usually those who are similar to us in ethnicity, socioeconomic class, education, background and lifestyle.

Our perceptions of the world are formed largely when we are children.

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What makes us all the same?

What makes us all the same?

Are we the same because we work for the same organization or go to the same school? Are we the same because we speak the same language or live in the same neighborhood? Are we the same because we listen to the same music or eat at the same restaurants?

These questions may seem trivial, but as our society becomes more diverse the ways we choose to divide ourselves from others and who we include and exclude from our groups become important issues.

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What makes us all unique?

What makes us all unique?

Have Americans created a melting pot, a mosaic, or a patchwork quilt? What kinds of barriers still keep people from attaining their goals? How can we all be productive and successful? These questions are of crucial importance now and in our future.

A simplistic, but true, answer comes from an old saying, often repeated, and used by patriots everywhere, “united we stand divided we fall.” In order for us to grow and prosper we need to be aware of how our thinking keeps us from seeing others in an inclusive way. Some people call this a “diversity” issue. Perhaps it’s really a “unity” issue, an issue that is important to the “community”.

The citizenry of our country are diverse and ever changing.

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Diversity & CommUnity: How We View Ourselves & Others

Haven’t we gotten beyond the “race” issue?

This crucial question has been asked for decades. When you ask it of white people most answer “yes”; but when you ask people of color, the answer is “no”.  Why the different answers? Because most of us are ignorant — “lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated” from The Oxford Dictionary online. We don’t know our own history and we don’t understand biology.

“Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us.”  ~Richard Cowper

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