Flashcards for Ethnicity and Race
Topics 1-2:  Overview and Nature of Ethnicity
(23 cards)

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Copyright © 2004 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.

The general criteria that most Americans today use to classify each other into groups.

age, economic class, religion, gender, ethnicity, and race

A category or group of people considered to be significantly different from others in terms of cultural and sometimes physical characteristics. Commonly recognized groups of this sort in the United States today include American Indians, Jews, Latinos, Chinese, African Americans, and European Americans.

ethnic group

The number of ethnic groups within most small-scale societies. (Hint: small-scale societies include those with foraging, pastoral, or horticultural subsistence bases.)


The pioneering 19th century English anthropologist who was able to demonstrate conclusively that biological race and culture are not the same thing.

E. B. Tylor

A biological subspecies, or variety of a species, consisting of a more or less distinct population with anatomical traits that distinguish it clearly from other similar groups. (Hint: you are looking for a term that biologists might use in studying variation within a species.)


The reason that physical anthropologists most likely would say that our human "races" are not biological realities.

We are biologically an extremely homogenous species genetically. The supposed racial traits such as skin color don’t cluster together only in single distinct groups of people—they are often found extensively in other populations as well. All of us could be classified into a number of different "races", depending on what genetic traits are selected.

Regions of the world outside of sub-Saharan Africa where dark brown skin color is found among non-African populations.

Indian subcontinent, Australia, New Guinea, and elsewhere in the Southwest Pacific.

The reason that one’s physical appearance does not always coincide with the “race” they claim to be in North America today. (Hint: think about people who identify themselves as Native Americans but who look more European or African American than Native American in ancestry.)

“Race” in America is largely a cultural and historical construct rather than a biological phenomena.

The general term for selected traits used as symbolic badges of identity to emphasize distinctness from other ethnic groups. Dialect, religion, and style of dress are commonly used for this purpose. Biological characteristics, such as skin color and body shape, may be used as well.

ethnic symbols

Common ethnic symbols of African Americans.

dark brown skin color, shared experiences, and dialect

The general term for reinforcing an ethnic group's unity and distinctness by emphasizing the traits that set its members apart from others, rather than what they share in common with them.

boundary maintenance (or making "we-they" distinctions)

The absorption of an individual or minority group of people into another society or group.


Steps that usually hasten assimilation of a minority group.

intermarriage and de-emphasizing cultural and or biological differences

The second largest recent immigrant group in the U.S.


The large ethnic group in North America that has had the most resistance to intermarriage with European Americans.

African Americans

A relatively benign form of using "racial" distinctions, such as skin color and facial characteristics, for reference purposes. (Hint: this term was defined by Kwame Appiah, a British-Ghanaian scholar who studies African American issues.)


Harmful prejudice, discrimination, and/or persecution based on presumed ethnic/racial differences.


The general term for the belief that your own group's cultural traditions and values are correct and superior to all others. This is usually coupled with a generalized dislike and even contempt for people who have other cultural traditions. This is universal in that all people around the world have these beliefs to some degree. (Hint: this is not racism, though it is usually connected with racism.)


Where in the world that racism is found today.

It is common throughout the world in different forms. Over the last two decades, it has been especially extreme in such places as the former Yugoslavia, Israel, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Rwanda, and South Africa.

The usual target of racism for people in small-scale societies.

people in other societies rather than their own

The usual target of racism for people in large-scale ethnically diverse societies.

other ethnic groups within their own society

The general term for an ethnic or “racial” group that has the largest population and usually the greatest economic and political power in a society. (Hint: in North America today, European Americans are such a group in most, but not all, parts of the country.)

majority group

The general term for an ethnic or “racial” group that has a smaller population than the controlling majority group in a society. (Hint: such groups may also be based on shared gender, age, disabilities, political views, etc.)

minority group