Race and Ethnicity

Understanding Race and Ethnicity

Both race, which describes physical characteristics, and ethnicity, which encompasses cultural traditions such as language and religion, play pivotal and socially significant roles in our lives. These aspects of our identity inform how we see ourselves and the world, how others see us, and how we relate to each other. As immigrants create a more diverse nation, communities built around racial and ethnic identity can be a source of resilience and connectedness for arrivals who might otherwise feel isolated or alienated.

Although many people embrace racial and ethnic diversity, developing tolerance and respect for human differences, minority communities in the United States and elsewhere continue to suffer from inequality, injustice, and exclusion at the hands of the majority. The adverse personal, political, economic, and psychological implications of this discrimination and marginalization can include societal rejection, fewer job and educational opportunities, poor medical care, and unfair treatment by authorities.

Understanding Race

Non-white and Hispanic individuals currently account for less than 50 percent of the U.S. population, but the Census Bureau projects that by 2045, the country will become “majority minority” for the first time. It’s unclear how this shift will impact race relations, but large recent studies indicate that some white Americans hold negative feelings about the trend. Understanding the role of implicit and explicit biases, structural racism, and evolving attitudes about race—particularly as a more diverse younger generation matures—are critical for a changing nation, on both the interpersonal and community levels.

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