The Meaning of Ethnicity and Ethnic Identification

Length: 3 Pages 682 Words

The Meaning of Ethnicity and Ethnic Identification ethnicity - (n) - A quality assigned to a specific group of people historically connected by a common national origin or language. Ethnic classification is used for identification rather than differentiation. The term "ethnicity" is a complex term. In today's public discourse, it has replaced the term "race" as a more "politically correct" representation of the classification of humans on the basis of national origin and language. However, in practice, "ethnicity" as a term carries with it all of the ambiguity and controversy that the term "race" carries. This is especially true when one attempts to apply the term to a particular individual by "ethnic identification." At one time in history, many believed that ideas of race and ethnic background would slowly fade from human consciousness; that the world would slowly meld into one homogeneous society as a result of modernizati Continue...

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on, industrialization, and individualism. However, as can be clearly seen in several nations worldwide, the refinement of the definition of "ethnicity" has done nothing to decrease the inequality that results from ethnic identification. 1 However, as the world progresses into the 21st century, the issue of ethnicity and ethnic diversity, inequality, and conflict seems to grow in significance every day. Indeed, the "official definition" of "ethnicity" and "ethnic identification" may be "aethnic classification is used for identification rather than differentiation," however, the societies and nations of the world have a long way to go until they realize that goal. One excellent example of this problem exists in the society of modern-day Israel. However, few realized the social implications of that concept in that many of the "scattered tribes" were racially and culturally distinct from one another. Israel does not prepare our children to be doctors and engineers, but hewers of wood and bearers of water. As a result, Israeli Jews began to be divided into three groups (not including Israeli Arabs or other non- Jews), including the Ashkenazi or "European Jews," the Ethiopian, or "Black Jews," and the Sephardim, or "Oriental Jews. "3 For this reason, combined with the very real practical problem of classifying individuals based on race in modern, globalizing culture, the term "ethnicity" has been adopted to include cultural and social aspects as well as biological, linguistic, and geographic characteristics. 2 Further, smaller, social conflicts between various societies, based on the inherent problems with ethnic identification and discrimination have remained steady world-wide. When the state of Israel was created in 1948, it was hailed as the beginning of a unified "Jewish State," a home for all of the scattered tribes of the Diaspora. According to the American Anthropological Association, the concept of "race" carries with it a long history of ideas of superiority and inferiority, where, "Perceived behavioral features and differences in intellect were inextricably linked to race and served as a basis for the ranking, in terms of superiority, of races. In fact, since 1991, thirty-five out of thirty-seven major wars and conflict have been directly related to ethnic conflicts. This can not only be seen in the example of the State of Israel, but in societies world wide.


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