Skip to Main Content

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Race & Ethnicity

Definitions and Resources

What are Race & Ethnicity?

Race "is a false construct that conflates skin color and ancestry with behavior, intelligence, and culture. Though race is a false construct, it has real consequences for all people."

McDonald, E. (2020). Key Terms. Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Resources LibGuide. Louisiana State University Libraries.

"While many have sought a genetic foundation for categorizing population groups, there is no scientific consensus that racialized groups are genetically distinct. Population groups are transformed into races for political purposes on the basis of arbitrary but distinctive pheno-typic (i.e., physical appearance) and cultural criteria. The belief that groups of people identified on the basis of these criteria are also inherently different and genetically distinct is the unfortunate remnant of an outdated pseudo-scientific idea."

Neighbors, H. W., Griffith, D. M., & Carty, D. C. (2009). Racism/Race Discrimination. In D. Carr (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Life Course and Human Development (Vol. 2, pp. 357-361). Macmillan.

Ethnicity is "derived from the noun ethnos, representing people, nation, foreign people.' . . . [and] in the modern context, ethnicity generally denotes a group of people who share cultural practices, beliefs, language or linguistic commonalities, geography, and religion."

Buchanan, S. (2013). Ethnicity. In P. L. Mason (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Race and Racism (2nd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 119-124). Macmillan.

"Race and ethnicity are neither natural nor given: they have no basis in human biology. They are defined and actualized by people who impose, accept, and contest these terms' meanings and their workings. They are therefore historical insofar as they are made and remade in place and over time. Although they are culturally constructed abstractions, race and ethnicity are given substance in the institutions and cultures of America's peoples, providing justifications and means for division and union, inequality and equality."

Okihiro, G. (2001). Race and Ethnicity. In The Oxford Companion to United States History. Oxford University Press.

Racism "is a system of advantage and disadvantage based on social, historical, and cultural constructions of race and ethnicity. Racism is a quintessentially cultural-psychological and socioeconomic phenomenon consisting of patterns of historically derived and selected ideas and their material instantiation in institutions, practices, [and] artifacts . . . Systems of race and racism are cultural and socioeconomic products. They have developed over time to reflect dominant understandings of relationships between groups, and they constantly evolve with changing circumstances to enable or maintain systems of domination."

Salter, P. S., & Adams, G. (2013). Racism: Overview. In P. L. Mason (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Race and Racism (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 413-418). Macmillan.


Race, Ethnicity, and Racism: A Reading List

Campus Resources on Race & Ethnicity

Asian American Resource Center

The Asian American Resource Center enhances the quality of college life for Asian American students on campus through heritage programs, academic support and student organization events that foster inclusion.

Center for Black Studies

The Center for Black Studies offers Northern Illinois University and its surrounding communities an interdisciplinary understanding of the histories and cultures of African Americans and the African diaspora. Supporting students, faculty, staff and community partners, the Center for Black Studies advances cultural understanding, intellectual and leadership development, professional growth and social justice while serving as a collaborative and supportive space on campus.

Center for Burma Studies

The Center for Burma Studies celebrates the culture of Burma through regular exhibitions and events. The center curates over 10,000 items from Burma, including pieces of art and maps which can be viewed, as well as music and books that are available to check out through interlibrary loan. The NIU center is supported by the Burma Studies Foundation to be the National Center for Burma Studies.

Center for Latino and Latin American Studies

The Center for Latino and Latin American Studies celebrates Latin culture, development, resources, history and societies of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Latino/a peoples around the globe.


Latino Resource Center

The Latino Resource Center is a unit of the Division of Academic Affairs at NIU. Better known as the LRC by students and staff, the Latino Resource Center focuses on student-centered service by developing partnerships focused on student learning while establishing an inclusive community that builds collaborative relationships across campus and the surrounding community.


Center for Southeast Asian Studies

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies combines and celebrates the cultures of the eleven countries that make up Southeast Asia. Students share and enhance their culture while learning and speaking these languages, and learn about the history and religions of Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


Resources on Race & Ethnicity

Resources on Critical Race Theory

Resources on Race & Racial Equity

Researching Race & Ethnicity


When conducting research on any group, consider the range of labels we use to identify ourselves/them:

  • Chicano or Mexican American, but also possibly Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx
  • For other Latino groups, try using specific Latino populations, such as Puerto Rican, Cubans, Dominican Republic, etc.
  • Black and African American, but other historical terms as necessary
  • Asian American or specific populations, such as Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc.
  • Native American or specific populations, such as Hopi, Potawatomi, Cherokee, Navajo, etc. 
  • You can also search for potential keywords or subject terms within books and articles 

Adapted from Benedictine University Library's Race and Social Justice Research Guide