Tag Archives: ethnicity

How does our thinking about “race” and ethnicity create conflict?

Where do our ideas about “race” come from? Did slavery create racism? Why can’t we all just get along?

Many people think “race” and racism have been around forever. When we look at historical records from earlier times and places we find our ideas about “race” are quite different than ideas held by people in the past.

In the ancient world, slavery was a way of life. Many slaves were owned by Egyptian, Greek, and Roman aristocracy. But these slaves did not necessarily have different skin color from their owners. Slave owners acquired their slaves through capture in warfare, punishment for crimes, colonialism, kidnapping and piracy, and other means. Even the inability to pay a debt might make someone a slave.

Slavery didn’t end with the fall of Rome. During the 15th through 19th centuries, many of the most powerful European countries engaged in colonialism. Much of the Americas, including the U.S., Cuba, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Atlantic Nicaragua were colonized and Africans were enslaved to work the conquered land.

In places where the European colonists brought slavery and settled, the mixing of populations between those of European descent and those of African descent created mulatto or Creole cultures. These cultures were typically “caste-stratified by skin tone and more broadly by the degree of ‘African-ness’… as opposed to ‘European-ness’ that an individual or family exhibits.” from Bad Subjects, “Colorless All-Color”: Notes on White Culture.

The U.S. is also a mulatto culture, but instead of becoming caste-stratified a color line was drawn dividing society into two exclusive groups: Whites and non-whites. Americans created a division between people that didn’t exist before and that we still feel the effects of today. Continue reading How does our thinking about “race” and ethnicity create conflict?

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.

Continue reading Why Do We Have Racial & Ethnic Categories?

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.

Continue reading What makes us all the same?