How to Classify Different Ethnicities

A race is a social grouping of human beings typically categorized in terms of common physical or personal characteristics typically seen as distinctly different in a given geographical region. The word was first employed to describe speakers of a single language and later to denote political nationalities. In the 17th Century, however, the word began to apply to physical traits more than to social ones. Thus, it applied to races as a general description instead of being confined to a particular language or nation. It is used today when speaking of human classification, though some prefer to reserve the word for a single group like ‘racial’ or ‘genetic’.


Contrary to popular belief, there are actually no hard and fast rules regarding what constitutes a race and what counts as an ethnicity. While the term ‘racial’ has been in use since the mid-20th Century, it is technically incorrect to use it to identify a language or nationality. Such language and nationality concepts are based on the idea that all humans are related genetically via the Y-Chromosome and that, therefore, all people fall within a race. However, the precise definition of a race or ethnicity is left to the discretion of the census bureau in each locale and depends on the particular culture and demographics present in any area.

Since race can only be defined biologically, it does not necessarily follow that all human groups are automatically classified as one race. For example, African Americans may be considered a race but they would not fall within the biological category of human groupings as black. This is because they are actually a collection of different ethnic backgrounds that differ on both physical attributes and cultural traits. Similarly, Hispanics can also be considered a race but their origin or ethnic origins remain uncertain. As such, the precise biological or genetic characteristics defining a race can never be determined with absolute certainty.

However, it is possible to scientifically categorize racial groups based on physical characteristics like skin colour. Skin colour is hereditary and carries with it an automatic reference to the race of origin. Thus, all Africans are categorized as blacks. As an example, all Europeans are either white or brunettes. Similarly, Asians are classified as yellow or brown-haired people. As for Native Americans, they are commonly known as rednecks or whites.

However, although genetics have enabled evolution to occur over thousands of years, the exact set of traits that constitute a race can vary from one population to another. For instance, African genes are highly advantageous to the African gene pool compared to those of Europeans. Similarly, Native Americans, who descend from a Paleo-Indian stock, tend to exhibit highly diversified traits compared to other group members. In fact, these different populations tend to differ greatly in general physical traits but within these groups there can be minute differences.

In general, it is possible to classify different racial groups based on appearance. However, this is very difficult to do given that there are minute genetic differences between the various racial groups. Despite this difficulty, a relatively simple approach to identify race requires three basic components: race, nationality and genetically defined ethnicity. These three components will then provide a framework for the understanding of race, allowing researchers to specify specific genetic and physical markers that will separate populations. Thus, for researchers who want to identify human race, a highly simplified method is needed that relies on ancestry, skin color and similar physical traits that are expected to be common among all humans.