The Meaning of Ethnicity and Ethnic Identification
ethnicityÂ -Â (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
on,industrialization, and individualism. However, as can be clearly seen in several nations worldwide, therefinement of the definition of "ethnicity" has done nothing to decreasethe inequality that results from ethnic identification. 1 However, as the world progressesinto 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"a" ethnic classification is used for identification rather thandifferentiation," however, the societies and nations of the world have along way to go until they realize that goal. One excellent example of this problem exists inthe society of modern-day Israel. However, few realized the social implications ofthat concept in that many of the "scattered tribes" were racially andculturally 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 tobe divided into three groups (not including Israeli Arabs or other non-Jews), including the Ashkenazi or "European Jews," the Ethiopian, or "BlackJews," and the Sephardim, or "Oriental Jews. "3 For this reason, combinedwith the very real practical problem of classifying individuals based onrace in modern, globalizing culture, the term "ethnicity" has been adoptedto include cultural and social aspects as well as biological, linguistic,and geographic characteristics. 2 Further, smaller, socialconflicts between various societies, based on the inherent problems withethnic identification and discrimination have remained steady world-wide. When the state of Israel was created in 1948, it was hailed as thebeginning of a unified "Jewish State," a home for all of the scatteredtribes of the Diaspora. According to the American Anthropological Association, the concept of"race" carries with it a long history of ideas of superiority andinferiority, where, "Perceived behavioral features and differences inintellect were inextricably linked to race and served as a basis for theranking, in terms of superiority, of races. In fact,since 1991, thirty-five out of thirty-seven major wars and conflict havebeen directly related to ethnic conflicts. This can not only be seen in theexample of the State of Israel, but in societies world wide.