Identity and Human Grouping: Cultural, Ethnic, Racial & Gender

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  • 0:12 Human Grouping & Culture
  • 1:15 Race
  • 2:05 Ethnicity
  • 2:51 Gender
  • 3:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will seek to explain the different human groupings of culture, race, ethnicity, and gender. In doing so, it will discuss how these terms are and are not tied to biological and physical traits.

Human Grouping & Culture

Throughout history, people have been grouped, and people have placed themselves into groups. From the tragedy of Nazi Germany dividing people by race to the benign grouping of preschoolers who like chocolate versus vanilla, people have been grouped. When speaking more scientifically or anthropologically, groupings have often been based on culture, race, ethnicity, and gender. In today's lesson, we will explain these terms.

To begin our lesson we'll start with culture. Culture is the set of learned behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that characterize a society or a people group. It encompasses both the intangible and tangible things of a population. They are things like how a society defines family or how people worship. It's people's favorite pastimes and their music.

In short, it's what binds a people group together as a people group. It's what makes them them! With all this in mind, it's important to remember that although culture may be affected by biology, it is not determined by it. In other words, culture is learned. Unlike say, hair color, a person is not just born with culture.


With this, we have a nice transition into our next term, race. Race denotes a people group who have differences and similarities in physical and biological traits that are considered to be socially significant. Unlike culture, race is based very heavily on biology. However, these biological traits must be seen as socially significant.

Speaking in terms of race, eye color is usually not seen as socially significant. For instance, those considered Caucasian can have brown, green, or blue eyes. This is not significant; however, skin color is. Using the same example, those who are considered Caucasian are of fairer complexion than those who are not. Unfortunately, assumed differences in race have been cause for great prejudice. Adding to this, most sciences do not even recognize the concept of race as being empirically valid.


Next we come to ethnicity. Being closely linked to culture, ethnicity is based on shared cultural practices and perspectives that set a people group apart from others. Breaking this down a bit more, ethnicity is a shared cultural tradition and heritage.

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