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Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality

Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality

The subject of race, ethnicity, and nationality have been a part of the conscious debate for as long as I can remember being in the community. Its an important question – one that forces us as a global people to examine to whom or where our allegiance belongs.

Before we can discuss the issue with integrity, we must clarify the difference between race, ethnicity, and nationality – terms that have all been taken to mean the same thing when, in reality, they dont.

Race Is Different From Ethnicity

Take a look at the images below. Each face represents people all of the same racial group, but all of different ethnicities.


The term ethnicity is defined as “the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition”, whereas the term race is understood as “each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics”. To get a full understanding of the difference, think of Rwanda’s Hutu and Tutsi.

As we clarified in this article, the terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi” were NOT racial classifications, but signs of social distinction. A person could become a Tutsi or a Hutu based on their social and economic standing. Tutsis who lost their cattle sometimes would be considered Hutu, and Hutu who came up on some cattle would come to be considered Tutsi.

Other examples of race/ethnicity differentiation are the Ashanti and the Akan (peoples of Ghana: same race, different ethnicity), the Mulao and Xibe (peoples of China), and the Kurds and Ossetians (peoples of Iran).

The two points that one should take from this information are (1) race is different from ethnicity and (2) ethnicity can be changed, but race cannot!

Ethnicity Is Different From Nationality

Nationality is simply the status of belonging to a particular nation. You can be of a specific race, ethnicity, and nationality all at once; these terms dont mean the same thing.

In the above examples, the Akan people of Ghana would still be considered “Akan”, even if they were in South Africa, or in Atlanta, Georgia. These peoples can be classified by their ethnic group, regardless of what country they decide to settle in.

To say that you are “African” is a grossly panoramic reduction of hundreds (if not thousands) of various ethnicities with all their various customs and cultures. That doesnt mean we should stop calling ourselves “African”, we should! Blacks in America dont have the luxury of knowing exactly where we came from individually. But we should realize that we are of our own ethnicity. We have a unique and specific culture right here in America that is very different from the customs and cultures of other African peoples.

Nationality, more specifically, defines the county that a citizen gives his or her allegiance to. In the case of the United States, one gives his allegiance to the state, not the country as a whole, and thats a good thing: a state national has “rights” in contradistinction to “privileges” possessed by a US citizen. A state national owes his/her allegiance to his/her countrymen, i.e. fellow Delawareans, Coloradoans and NOT to a state government.

This is the critical difference between a state national and a US citizen. Because of this difference in nationality, a state national IS NOT subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and therefore is bound the State constitution of his/her state and the law of nations/international law. (See more here: How Do You Define Your Nationality) When the “Feds” override charges against a criminal that are levvied by the state, the Federal government is actually (unconstitutionally) challenging the sovereignty of that state. Of course, constitutional violations happen all the time – its just a matter of a court being open to hearing the arguments of a Constitutionalist to change this.

Race Is Not Changeable, Racial Names Are

As far as you are concerned, you will remain the same race for the rest of your life.

While your race remains the same, what you call your race can change with the times. There was a time when Asians were called “Orientals”, there was a time when even Blacks referred to themselves as “Negroes”, and a time when whites were called “Occidentals”. Scientific names for each respective racial category are the Australoid race, the Capoid race, the Caucasian race, the Mongoloid race and the Congoid race. Again, the names dont matter so much as the fact that your race is what it is.

One can choose their nationality. One can be born into an ethnic group. But your race is yours – from the cradle to the grave.

Some Toughts (6)

  1. added on 22 Apr, 2012

    "best known for furthering the cause of establishing a true Nationality for the Black race here in America"

    I don't know how this is true in any manner. Black American/Negro is a nationality always has been. What the Moors promoted, aside from be completely false, was imposing the identity and religion of folk who weren't exclusively Black or even predominately so(depending on who you ask) on Black Americans. With all the scientific and social evidence available currently there is no excuse people do not know Black Americans are the descendants of West and Central Africans by GREAT majority.

    Back to the original topic. While I rarely hear people mix race and nationality up – for example most Jamaicans consider themselves Black and know Black Americans are Black too but know we have different cultures. I find that people rarely understand ethnicity and I also find it difficult to define but I use it the way I use nationality. Nationality frequently mis defined to refer nation-states as opposed to groups with shared origins, cultures and etc. When used in that sense Black American is clearly a nationality. Like a Kurd in Iraq nationality is Kurdish.

    • added on 14 Feb, 2013

      @AfroFogey:disqus 1. words have the power to create build and destroy(“signs and symbols are for the conscience mind”) 2. Names distinguish one thing/person etc., from another. 3. Words/names have a meaning/definition 4. Nationality means you belong to a nation/country(a.) and (b.) gives you a legal/political status/standing in the family of nations/ world court i.e “The United Nations”. 5. Your nationality is determined at birth, it comes from rights of blood (jus sanguinus) and rights of land/soil (jus soli) which means your nationality is determined by the nationality of your parents/forefathers/ancestors and the land in which you were born.(according to law) 6. Every nation has a flag and free national standards. Where is the black national flag, from what nation/country.

      • added on 16 Feb, 2013

        Indeed. ON your first point, it was understood as long ago as the days fo Kemet that words carry the power of creation with them. When deities would desire something to come into existence, they would speak them, and in Christianity, God spoke existence into being. What we call ourselves has power, or impotence, built into it. Such is the importance of our self declarations. On point number 6, we have a flag: the Red Black and Green flag represents the disparate members of our race, and serves as such until we establish a nation in our ancestral homeland – thus fulfilling your definition of the origins of nationality in point #5.

      • added on 19 Feb, 2013

        All Nations do not have flags, you are mixing up nations and nation states, they are two different things.

        • added on 20 Feb, 2013

          1. when talking about nationality, as we were, we’re talking about nations/nation states. 2. In the old world/ ancient days when you went into a tribes land you would see statues, artifacts, names, or whatever else to let you know you were in their land. Those things/statues etc., were their national identities. It represented their blood line and where they were from. In today’s world we do that with flags that represent our nationalities and use our names. A person born in America with a bloodline that leads back to Ireland would be Irish-American (name would be something like “Mc Gee”) the same with an American born with Chinese heritage “Chinese-American” (names like Xao, Li, etc.). If you would notice their nationalities carried 2 flags 1 American because they were born in America and Irish or Chinese because of their heritage/blood line. Notice neither one uses a continent as their nationalities. So, how can one be African-American? Why not African- North American, or African-European. Because here in America is where they dont respect the nationality of the so-called “black, negro, Afro-American, etc, or any name they gave us at the times from slavery when they stripped our nationalities from us. Because if we looked hard enough and knew our history and our legal standing we would know who we needed to be so we could get our reperations like the Native Americans, Chinese yeah they even paid them. Who where brought here as slaves to. But as long as you dont know who you are a claim to the names they made for you after slavery (Black, Negro, etc,) they we can’t be recognized to receive our reparations. Know yourself and your father God Allah. Oh yeah and get hip to the Moorish Science Temple of America.

          • added on 20 Feb, 2013

            There is a lot wrong with this post which makes me want to stay as far away from the nutty Moors as possible. Actually there are many nations that live in nation state not dominated by their own nationalities. For instance the Kurds,which I’ve already mentioned, in Iraq and Turkey, the Basque in Spain and so on and so forth. Their are even books like Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, that discus the nations that founded America the nation state. So really read some literature instead of simply Googling definitions and coming on here trying to pass yourself as an expert. Peace Brother…

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