Picture from book

Race and Ethnicity

Central to the sociology is the understanding that race and ethnicity are socially constructed categories. While each is based on traits we may see as biological, such as skin color or facial features, the meanings attached to race and ethnicity are created, maintained, and modified over time through social processes in which we all take part. When a society categorizes people based on their race and ethnicity (and all do), it creates a system of stratification that leads to inequality. Society’s resources—wealth, power, privilege, opportunity—are distributed according to these categories, thereby perpetuating inequalities that are all too familiar here in the United States. In this lesson, you will also come to understand the importance of race and ethnicity in forming individual identity. Our racial and ethnic identities have profound effects on our sense of self, and our bonds to other people may be based on shared identities—or may transcend those categories entirely.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Understand central concepts in the sociology of race and ethnicity and how major sociological perspectives view race and ethnicity.

  • Describe the impact of racism on life chances.


Be sure to hand these in before the deadline


Textbook cover

Discuss (Thursday during class):

Coded Bias

Image from film

We will use the documentary film Coded Bias as an opportunity to explore the sociology of race and ethnicity. We will watch it together during class.

  • Be sure to have the movie ready to go at the start of class.

  • Login to the course Slack by 9:45am and say hi to your group!


If you have any questions at all about what you are supposed to do on this lesson, please remember I am here to help. Reach out any time so I can support your success.

Lesson Keywords

  • race

  • ethnicity

  • symbolic & situational ethnicity

  • minority group

  • racism

  • prejudice

  • discrimination

  • individual and institutional discrimination

  • white nationalism

  • privilege

  • color-blind racism

  • race consciousness

  • microaggressions

  • Reverse racism

  • antiracist allies

  • Critical race theory

  • passing

  • double-consciousness

  • embodied identity

  • Intersectionality

  • Race, Ethnicity, and Life

  • racial and cultural assimilation

The least you need to know

Theoretical perspectives on race

Table 1 from Chapter 8 in the textbook