W1: Race and Ethnicity – One and (not) the same

I have never really thought of the concept that race cannot be the same ethnicity. In today’s society, it is so common to naturally define race by skin color and physical differences, when in fact, this is wrong. In the first activity, “Understanding Race,” that we did this week, we learned that skin color is really just a genetic trait, which doesn’t cause people with different skin colors to be considered different races, but makes us more genetically diverse. According to Anthropologist Nina Jablonski, Ph.D. “variations in human skin are adaptive traits that correlate closely to geography and the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, not race.” (Goodman 2016, 1) Therefore, we are all a part of the same race, the human race; we may just have different ethnic backgrounds, genes, and adaptations in skin. So, if we’re all a part of the same human race, then why does it make sense to keep dividing each other ourselves and going against each other, sometimes solely because of what we think to be our different “races”? This lecture got me thinking about this issue more than I ever have before.

We all know that discrimination is still, unfortunately, a part of our world today, but do any of us really understand the effects that discrimination can have on a person? Discrimination and racism are aspects that most would not directly correlate with health issues, but in fact, these can be related. According to a study done on racial/ethnic discrimination and health, the stress induced by personal experiences of racial bias can affect health, overall, in society. (Williams, Neighbors and Jackson 2003) This study looked into past studies of a similar time period surrounding topics such as prejudice, ethnic discrimination, social discrimination, etc. The goal was to review these studies in order to analyze “the association between perceptions of racial/ethnic discrimination and a particular indicator of health.” (Williams, Neighbors and Jackson 2003) After analyzing the 53 studies, 32 of them had a measure of mental health. 25 of these associations were examined to have psychological distress, and 20 of these were found to have a positive association between discrimination and distress. (Williams, Neighbors and Jackson 2003) Obviously, mental health is something that could be more commonly noted to have an association with discrimination, but these mental health issues could lead to more dangerous diagnoses. These could include a diagnosis of major depression, which was found in these studies, and had a positive association with discrimination. There were also positive associations between discrimination and health with relation to hypertension, chronic conditions, and indicators of disability. (Williams, Neighbors and Jackson 2003) To me, this only further supports the notion that ethnicity and ethnic discrimination, meaning social aspects, can have an effect on health. The evidence found in all of our readings and activities this week proves that 1) ethnicity can affect health negatively, if we continue discriminating, and 2) we are all a part of the same race, so why is it even still necessary to put each other down based on skin color, which is really just an adaptation to the sun?

Goodman, Alan. “RACE – Only Skin Deep.” UnderstandingRace.org. Accessed July 06, 2016.



Williams, David R., Harold W. Neighbors and James S. Jackson. 2003. “Racial/Ethnic

Discrimination and Health: Findings From Community Studies.” American Journal Of

Public Health 93:200-08. Accessed July 06, 2016.  doi: 10.2105/AJPH.93.2.200.


6 thoughts on “W1: Race and Ethnicity – One and (not) the same

  1. Hi Emily!
    I couldn’t agree with you more on the fact that this lecture got be thinking about this issue more than before as well. Between this and the amount of violence and protest going on between what society thinks is different races is so strange. In another class I was in last year we learned that almost all of us (somewhere way back in our ancestry) originated from Africa. i wonder if scientific proof about that would lead people to be more accepting of our ethnic groups. After learning all of this in this weeks lectures, I couldn’t help but think, people are killing and being violent towards others because of their skin color but that is no different biological than there eye color. That is scary how we are all under this false impression of race. And i wonder, what else are we actually wrong about? I also loved that you included this study. In my post I had talked about how someones ethnicity (and mostly their family history) really just make them more vulnerable to any sort of illness or disease but that was it. I didn’t think about the environmental factors that play a part due to society. This was great insight into that side of the story. Great post!

  2. I have learned in previous classes that there is no such thing as race and that the proper term to differentiate different groups of people is ethnicity. I do agree that its common and easy to categorize people based on skin color because that’s the way many people have done it for so long but I think people need to realize that the shade of a person’s skin can never really define who they are and you also can’t always tell from looking at a person what group of people they define themselves with. I agree with you that many people wouldn’t think to correlate health issues with race and discrimination and before this lecture I don’t think I would have either. It makes a lot of sense when you think about the fact that many people, typically minorities, face racism and discrimination in a multitude of areas. If a person has trouble getting a decent job because of the color of their skin that in turn would affect the amount of money that person makes which also effects the kind of health care and health insurance they are able to afford. It’s crazy to think how it ripples down to so many different areas but starts with skin color.

  3. Hi Emily!
    I would have to agree that this week really got me thinking about race more so than before and how in today’s society everyone is so quick to put others into groups based solely on skin color. I think this is largely due to the fact that most people do not understand the difference and that having white or black skin is the same as having blonde or brunette hair. Even going to the doctor’s office they want you to put yourself into one of the checked boxes based on your skin color, but everyone comes from so many different parts of the world that it is difficult to just pick one box. Discrimination can impact your health greatly and I agree that most people would not think about this, I know I didn’t think about it in this great of detail before the lectures this week. In another class I took, we discussed how stress has a huge impact on our overall health and the impacts of chronic stress. Discrimination is one of the major stressors for some people depending on where they live. Not being able to cope with this stress properly can lead to serious health issues along with mental health problems. It is scary to think how much stress affects us and how the color of one’s skin can add or relieve so much stress in society and social standing today. Great post!

  4. Hi Emily! I too have never really thought about the definitions of race and ethnicity. I believe a lot of people grow up thinking they are very similar ideas. I was intrigued by the fact that skin colors are due to environmental conditions. This is certainly not a reason to separate people in to different groups. I too began thinking a lot after that lecture, and wish that more people understood that race is not real. Discrimination is a horrible thing and unnecessary. I like your point about discrimination causing certain health effects. It is crazy that something like race can cause so many negative consequences, when it actually is not true. I want more people to understand that the consequences of race and discriminations are dire. You cannot help what skin color you are, and you shouldn’t have to worry about an effect from the environment defining your status and well being in life. I agree that living in a world where we don’t recognize race and discrimination would lead to better health and an overall better life. Great job!

  5. Hi, Emily! Great job on your post, I really enjoyed reading it and I’m looking forward to your future posts. Before this class, I never really knew how to explain the difference between race and ethnicity too. It was never really mentioned or came up in any of my classes or in my day-to-day conversations. I started to think about all the differences between them and they were very obvious. I love how you talked about discrimination and racism. I think the topic should have been more talked about in the lectures because it is a big topic in today’s world. It is important to stress how skin color is not a valid reason to treat someone differently. I think it is crazy that someone can treat someone else differently over something that does not even exist (race). I don’t think I understand how you explained “ethnicity can affect health negatively, if we continue discriminating.” Your ethnicity is the way you eat, talk, and carry out day-to-day activities. You cannot really discriminate someone’s ethnicity. It is more likely that someone will discriminate against someone’s skin color rather than how they do the things they do. I agree on your statement saying that skin color is really just an adaptation to the sun.

  6. The effects of racial discrimination are widespread and negatively affect many aspects of a person’s life. However, I never really gave any thought to how racial discrimination, and the stresses it can cause, can and do adversely affect peoples’ health. Both mental and physical health are put at risk when discrimination occurs. As the study you cited stated, depression is a serious health issue that can arise from people being discriminated against. This decline of mental health can then cause a cascade of physical health problems, or intensive already present health issues. As this week’s reading stated, this poor treatment can also affect pregnant women. They can go into premature labor due to the stress of being treated in a discriminatory manner, which can put both the mother’s and child’s lives in danger.

    I think that the last statement you made is very interesting, and puts this issue of racism and health into a different perspective. All of these physical and mental health issues that are caused or augmented by people experiencing racism stem from individuals being treated badly for how they look. For having different skin colors which, as your cited study stated, “variations in human skin are adaptive traits that correlate closely to geography and the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, not race”. In my opinion, no one’s health should be negatively affected due to being treated in a racially discriminatory manner because we are all members of the human race and deserve to be treated with respect. Unfortunately, however, discrimination is still very prevalent in society today, and continues to have negative effects on peoples’ mental and physical well-being.

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