People are different not only because of their appearances, habits, preferences, and behaviors but also because of their definite ethnic characteristics. It is important to note that the role of ethnicity as the significant factor of the individual’s development associated with the person’s identity can be discussed from several different perspectives which are the personal identity, the fact of belonging to a definite community, and the position in the society.
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From this point, the question of ethnicity is closely connected with the concepts of identity and race. Ethnicity can be discussed with references to the national identity, and this aspect can influence the individual’s position within the certain society positively, negatively or it can have no obvious effects.
Although the fact of belonging to a definite ethnic group can influence the individual’s position in the society in a different way, it is necessary to state that ethnicity should be discussed as the influential factor only with references to its role in the personal and social interactions.
Race is the general notion in relation to which the world population is differentiated according to some biological characteristics. However, race as well as ethnicity can be discussed as predominantly social notions. According to Cornell and Hartmann, “races … are not established by some set of natural forces but are products of human perception and classification.
They are social constructs” (Cornell and Hartmann 23). In this case, ethnicity which is based on the definite culture, history, language, religion, customs, and traditions helps determine the social identities and divide people in ‘we’ and ‘others’ (Cornell and Hartmann).
Many people agree that sometimes this kind of differentiation can lead to conflicts between the representatives of various ethnic groups which are caused by stereotypes and prejudice and by the inability to accept the differences. Many modern societies are multiethnic that is why it is important to concentrate on the role of ethnicity in their development.
Ethnicity can be discussed as an individual and collective notion. Today, people are involved in a lot of social circles which can include the representatives of different ethnic groups.
The studies support the fact that members of a family often belong to one ethnic group, but when spouses are the representatives of different ethnic group the role of their ethnicity become significant for the spouses’ personal development and as the aspect of children’s upbringing.
Thus, ethnicity as the concept of an individual’s identity which develops in family does not provoke conflicts because it is taken-for-granted. The different situation can be observed while discussing ethnicity as the collective notion.
Ethnicity explicitly defines the interpersonal relations when it is associated with a kind of racial discrimination. Thus, many young African-Americans state that their race and ethnicity influence their social position. This position is often based not on their personal characteristics, but on the other people’s perceptions of them.
In this case, it is possible to speak about the invidious status of definite races and groups in the society. However, the question of race and ethnicity is not always prominent because it depends on the combination of such factors as ethnicity, gender, class, age, and religion.
If African-American respondents concentrate on the aspects of discrimination, the representatives of Latino ethnicity are inclined to agree that their ethnicity provides some social boundaries in their interactions with the other ethnic groups. However, in most cases, ethnicity is significant for them as the source of their cultural difference and identity.
Moreover, ethnicity influences their self-actualization more than their social status, and the representatives of the other ethnic groups support the viewpoint that the factor of ethnicity is influential for the individual’s finding his personal and social identity in being the part of a community and sharing the meanings.
The progress of globalization processes and the development of modern multiethnic societies result in persons’ paying less attention to ethnic differences in comparison with the situation which was typical for the parents and grandparents’ generation. The conflict of ethnicities at social settings is not as developed today as it was earlier.
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Expanding their social circles, people usually do not focus on ethnic attributes and differences as the causes for conflicting or discriminating. Furthermore, today the notion of ethnicity is more significant for stating the personal identity with which social, cultural, and national identities are associated.
It is possible to conclude that today the role of ethnicity for developing social relations and taking the definite social position is rather exaggerated, and the ethnic factor is not as important as it was decades ago. However, there are examples of conflicts based on racial and ethnic misunderstandings and misconceptions which can lead to the development of prejudice in the society directed toward this or that group.
Nevertheless, ethnicity is important as well as the national identity because it is the base for the person’s cultural development, for forming his notions about freedom and boundaries. Providing the fundament for the collective identification within the community, ethnicity is also the source of the person’s self-actualization.
Cornell, Stephen and Douglas Hartmann. Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World. USA: Sage Publications, 1998. Print.