Perspectives Of Race And Ethnicity – India And America Research Paper Samples

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Race, America, United States, Ethnicity, India, Social Issues, Population, Religion

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/13

Other Details

Race and ethnicity are important aspects of an individual’s personality. These two aspects along with other demographic data such as age, physical features, and gender describe an individual. From a psychological perspective, it is important to understand the racial and ethnic background of an individual. This is because race and ethnicity impact the physical and mental well being of an individual. According to a report published by the Department of Health and Human Service, mental disorders like schizophrenia, depression, and panic can affect all individuals irrespective of their race or ethnic identity. However many minorities do not have access to mental health services. Where access is available, the service is poor or negligent. There also exist certain barriers which prevent these minorities from seeking help for mental conditions and disorders. Identifying the discrepancies and discriminations in providing mental health services to minorities and understanding the barriers that prevent them from seeking intervention can go a long way in improving the life of the individuals who belong to minority communities and suffer from mental disorders. In order to understand the problems faced by the minorities with respect to seeking intervention and access to services, it is important to understand the concept of racism and ethnicity as perceived by these minorities.
With this objective in mind, we propose to investigate the concept of racism and ethnicity in one country and compare it with similar concepts in the United States. The country chosen for study is India since it is one of the oldest cultures of civilization and one of the most complex cultures. In the following paragraphs, we present an insight into the proposed study of racism and ethnicity in India and America.

Ethnicity India and America

Racial difference may be described as difference in background, culture, and upbringing. In medical terms, it means a difference in the genetics of two individuals while sociologists describe people coming from different nations and cultures a belonging to different races. UNESCO defines race as a group of people sharing certain physical characteristics. According to Bailey et al. (2010), “an ethnic group is a named social category of people based on perceptions of shared social experience or ancestry”. According to this definition, ethnicity implies ancestry. An ethnic group has a strong psychological or emotional bond that binds them to one another. Diego et al. (2010) claim that race is not a scientific term and that there is a difference in the terms race and ethnicity. The line that differentiates race and ethnicity is therefore a very fine one. Our research proposes to identify the difference between race and ethnicity while comparing the cultural differences of two countries – America and India. The reason we chose these two countries for comparison is that the racial differences in these two countries are clearly defined.
In this paper, we examine the racial differences present in two countries – India and America. We begin with describing the culture and ethnicities in the two countries and conclude with a discussion on how ethnicity is perceived by the people belonging to these two countries. One point that must be clarified here is the difference between race and ethnicity.

Difference Between Race And Ethnicity

Diego et al. (2010) state, that ethnicity and race are two completely different concepts. While race is a biological concept, ethnicity is physiological. Racial differences are identified using skin color, color of the hair, shape of the skull and genetics. Ethnic differences are based on language, culture, and genetics (Diego et al., 2010). It may be noted that genetics are a factor in identification of both race and ethnicity. Another common factor is that both concepts primarily group the population into categories based on certain characteristics. It is probably for this reason that race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably. However, research has shown that the two concepts are entirely different albeit with a common vein (Diego et al. (2010). With this background, we now proceed to describe the Indian culture with particular emphasis on race and ethnicity, followed by a similar description of American culture.

Indian Culture

It has been scientifically proved that the human race originated in Africa and later migrated to other locations. Many of the initial migrations were to India and thence to other parts of the world. India is therefore one of the oldest civilizations (Cann 2001 in Majumder, 2001). As such India is second only to Africa in ethnic diversity (Majumder, 1998 in Majumder, 2001). The contemporary population of India largely belongs to the Hindu religion. This religion is divided into four main castes which according to hierarchy are Brahmin (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vysya (businesspersons) and Shudra (menial labourers). Apart from the predominant Hindu religion there exist other religions in India. Chief among these are Christianity, Islam, and Sikh. Other religious groups include Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis. The Indian population can be grouped in different ways with a view to identifying ethnicity and race. These are (1) the caste system grouping, (2) the linguistic groups, (3) the genetic groups (4) the geographical groups (5) the religious groups. There is some overlapping within these groups in that an individual may be categorised in more than one group. For example an individual living in the western parts of India may belong to one of the four main castes, and a specific linguistic group. In the following paragraphs, we discus these classifications in some detail.

The Genetic Groups

Genetically, the Indian population is divvied into two predominant groups, the ANI or Ancestral North Indians and the ASI or Ancestral South Indians. The ANIs are residents of North India, originally from the Aryan tribes while the ASI belong to the Dravidian tribe and reside in South India (Moorjani, 2013). These two distinct groups began mingling around 2100 BC. Around 100 A.D. there began a practice of endogamy. This practice put an end to the mixing between these groups making them even more distinct (Moorjani, 2013). Within these two groups, there exists the caste system as described above as well as a myriad of sub-castes and language groups.

The Linguistic Groups

Language groups are broadly classified into Aryan language group, Dravidian language group the Austro-Asiatic language group and the Tibeto-Burman language group, and the Great Anamneses group. Within these groups, there exist many subgroups (Moseley, 2008).

The Caste System

The Indian population is divided into four main castes viz. (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vysya (businesspersons) and Shudra (menial labourers). The Dalits were totally excluded from the stratification. They were call untouchables and people from the other four castes did not associate with them. The caste system is a hierarchical structure of the Indian population that exists within the Hindu community of India. The differences between the castes or strata were strictly observed in the past however, the lines of distinction have blurred over time (Berreman 1972).

The Religious Groups

Within the Indian population, there exist four main religions – Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity. This is a lateral classification of the Indian Population. In earlier times, the four religions did not interact much with one another. However, with the advent of newer means of communication and the efforts of social workers like Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and others, the lines of distinction were obliterated.

Other Classifications

During the British rule Indians were classified into two groups the marital group – those who were martially inclined - and the non-marital group – those who were not martially inclined (Rand, n.d.). Contemporary theory of classification however divides the Indian population into three main races viz. Caucasoid, Mongoloids and Negritos. These groups overlap because of the process of racial mixing (Nature, 2013).

Thus, we see that the racial and ethnical stratification within the Indian Culture is diverse as well as complex.

Ethnicity in America
The United States census authorities recognize four ethnic and racial groups. These include Whites, Native Americans including Alaska Natives, Asians, Afro-Americans, and Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islanders. There is also a category dubbed “Some other Race” which includes a few minority groups (OMB, 2008). Another classification of the American population by the US, Census Bureau is Hispanic & Latinos and non-Hispanic & Latino. Within the Hispanic & Latino group, which comprises the largest minority group in America, there exists a diverse ethnicity (Grieco, 2008). The Whites are the predominant ethnic group in the United States (US Census Bureau, 2010).
According to a report presented in the Race in America conference, racial differences in America is a perspective of Americans towards individuals rather than a categorization of the American population itself. This is evident in the history of racism in America. In the 18th century, Americans recognized only three groups or races – the whites, the slaves, and the others. As more and more people migrated to the United States, and information about their place of birth became available, more groups became recognized as races (Davis and Bangs, 2010). A glance at the history of racism in America will make the concept of racism from the American perspective clear.

History of Racism in America

The early humans of Africa migrated to America and Europe among other locations. The early classifications of Americans included Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans. The criteria for distinction were physical appearance, ancestry, and social circles. During the 19th century, the American society underwent a reconstruction after the Civil War. Americans who were known to have African ancestors began to be considered blacks irrespective of appearance. This classification gained legal recognizance during the 20th century (Shriver et al., 2003).

Colonization of America

The Colonial history of America dates back to the 16th century. The earliest known settlements were the Europeans. Later the French, Spaniards, and Netherlanders colonized Northern and Eastern America (Cooke, 1998). Diversity became the norm as the Dutch, Swedes, Finns, Quakers, Puritans, and populace from other locations migrated and settled in America. These settlers created new social, political, religious, and economic groups (Middleton & Lombard, 2011).


Following the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves, America experienced a complete reconstruction. This period from 1865 to 1877 is called the Reconstruction Era. This period is significant in the history of America. The reconstruction is considered a failure by many historians including Eric Foner who argues that in the aftermath of the Civil War Southern America became poor and dependant on agriculture while the North became more affluent and modernized. Foner (2000), claims states that the blacks faced a disaster of great magnitude and the accomplishments of the civil war were obscured by this disaster (Foner, 2000). The reconstruction era led to the contemporary concept of racism.

Thus we see that the American racism is linear rather than hierarchical as opposed to the mixed structure in India.

The terms racisms and ethnicity have been variously described as differences in culture, background and upbringing. According to Diego et al. (2010), there is a clear differentiation between race and ethnicity. In this paper, we compare the racial and ethnic differences in two countries viz. India and America in an effort to understand the concepts of race and ethnicity. Our research shows that although the racial and ethnic differences in both countries are diverse they differ in nature and complexity.
While the ethnic and racial differences in India have their roots in the caste system and the tribal system, American racism stems from a geographical perspective and is based on the color of the skin and place of origin of the individual. This is evident from the fact that while only three races existed during the 18th century, there exist close to six races in contemporary America. Conversely, in the Indian caste system, the racial barriers, though blurred by time, still exist as they did in the past. That is to say, the basic structure of discrimination remains the same.
The racial discrimination in India is far more complex than that in America. Within the two main classifications based on caste and religion, there are numerous subgroups based on language, tribal affiliation, and geographical location. In America on the other hand, racial differences exist because of a difference in geographical origin rather than birth. Americans classify an individual based on his place of birth whereas the Indians classify individuals based on the family to which he belongs. One may say therefore that racism in America is geographic as against racism in India which is genetic.
Another point of difference between ethnic perspectives in the two countries is that the American system of classification is purely linear. On the other hand, the Indian system is both lateral as evidenced by the religious, linguistic, and tribal classification, as well as hierarchical as evidenced by the caste system.


Racism in both countries is based on heredity. While in America, the concept of racism stems from belonging to a particular location, the fact that an individual with African ancestor is considered black (Shriver et al., 2003), shows that races are based on genetics. In India, as inter caste and inter linguistic marriages became common, the distinctions blurred. However, the patriarchal nature of Indian society is still predominant as evidenced by the fact that the birth of a son is important in order to carry forward the family lineage (MU, n.d.). This patriarchal nature is instrumental in the continuation of racism. Even when members belonging to different racial or ethnic groups enter into wedlock, the concept of family linage and the desire to perpetuate the family name keeps the races distinct.
One may conclude from the above discussion, that, from a sociological perspective, racism and ethnic differences exist in both India and America (the two countries selected for this study). However, they differ greatly in nature and complexity.


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