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Race and Ethnicity.  

Gary Y. Okihiro

Race and ethnicity have always mattered in the American experience. But their meanings and actualizations have changed over time and space, suggesting that they are social, not scientific, categories. Neither fixed nor permanent, they are continually negotiated and renegotiated. Race and ethnicity, or supposed physical and cultural groupings, respectively, were not always so defined or distinguished. America's first peoples formed economic, political, and ethnic groupings by language, kinship, and religious belief. They created idealized hierarchies that favored their own group over others. These perceived commonalities and differences justified belief systems and practices, alliances and fractures, cooperation and exploitation that shifted as time passed and situations changed.