One of the remnants of the founding of the United States (U.S.) is a continued focus on race and how to categorize individuals based upon an ascribed membership in a particular racial group (Harrell, 1999; Jones, 1997; Sellers, Shelton, Chavous, Rowley & Smith, 1998); rather than an emphasis on how these individuals categorize or self-identify themselves based upon their own lived, social experiences. For example, in the American context race and ethnicity have been defined as separate entities (Cokley, 2007), and further, individuals are expected to choose one or the other as their primary form of identification (Prewitt, 2004). In this way race and ethnicity are often intertwined and tangled with their corollaries: racial and ethnic identification (Trimble, 2007). Further, it is important to note that a racial identification or designation by the state (e.g., Census) is distinct from individuals’ racial or ethnic identity and how they might make meaning of the significance and relevance of such identities in their lives (Philip, 2007). Despite the fact that in the U.S. race and ethnicity (and racial/ethnic identity) are treated as separate entities, many immigrants view them interchangeably, entering the U.S. with their own notions of race and ethnicity that they may continue to use despite the prevailing categories used in the U.S. (Itzigsohn, 2004). In order to be inclusive of the experiences of all Americans, it is imperative that social scientists examine the notions of race and ethnicity, and racial/ethnic identity with sensitivity to the ways that immigrant populations make sense of these terms (Foner & Fredrickson, 2004; Itzigsohn, 2004). The present paper explores the existing literature on race and ethnicity, as well as racial and ethnic identity to gain a better understanding of how these terms help define diversity in contexts where individuals are challenging existing constructs.
|Keywords:||Race, Ethnicity, Diversity|
Research Director, Research, Planning and Development, The Robeson Group, Fairfax, Maryland, USA
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, USA
Postdoctoral Scholar, Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Research Program, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA
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