Ethnicity: an ethnic group; a social group that shares a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.

Search Writing|SE for the word 'ethnicity' and it returns over 100 entries. Many are questions that actually have the word 'ethnicity' in the title.

Virtually every week we see another question concerned about writing from the POV of another ethnicity, or questions asking how to describe people from different ethnic backgrounds. Recent examples which do not use the word 'ethnic or ethnicity' (so they would not show up in a search) include:

How do I express the race in my story? [edited]

Writing in a Christian voice

'Ethnicity' is the umbrella term, but some people like to debate what words mean, which is why I've added 2 links to Dictionary.com and wikipedia.

Wikipedia gives a broader definition than I expected:

An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation.1 Ethnicity is usually an inherited status based on the society in which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art or physical appearance.

This broader definition includes language, heritage, religion, and physical appearance, which probably covers many more questions that don't actually use 'ethnic' or ethnicity'.

Should we have an 'ethnicity' tag?

And to avoid the dictionary debate should the tag be 'ethnicity-religion-race'

Many of these questions resolve to the same answer, or very similar answers despite specifics in the ethnic group mentioned in the question – hence the reason for a common tag (not to put people in boxes, but to tag similar topics so the information is easier to find).

  • 2
    Searching for questions mentioning ethnicity returns 17 results: writing.stackexchange.com/… another 51 questions include 'race', though some are for fantasy races or horse races. writing.stackexchange.com/search?q=race+is%3Aquestion And 6 results for 'nationality', again not all relevant. writing.stackexchange.com/search?q=nationality+is%3Aquestion – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 17 '19 at 20:27
  • 2
    Even limiting it to questions that actually use the word 'ethnicity' 17 is on par with the tag 'sex' (18). Including answers that use 'ethnicity' reveals potentially many more than just 17. – wetcircuit Mar 17 '19 at 20:45
  • 2
    I'm not saying we shouldn't have the tag. It's just that, if a question is about ethnicity, all its answers would probably also mention the word, giving your search multiple results for one use of the tag. I do think that with the amount of questions the topic is getting, there's no reason not to have the tag. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 17 '19 at 20:53
  • I didn't list recent questions… but Cyn's today is one: writing.stackexchange.com/questions/43669/…, another is writing.stackexchange.com/questions/43305/… neither use the word 'ethnicity' – these are recent examples that made me thing we might need a tag. – wetcircuit Mar 17 '19 at 20:55
  • 1
    I'm not sure it is appropriate to refer to Christianity as an ethnicity. That said I support the tags existence – AGirlHasNoName Mar 17 '19 at 21:00
  • 2
    "Christian" is not ethnicity, but I get how it's very similar. I guess "diversity" would be too broad a tag. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 17 '19 at 21:00
  • @bruglesco, I believe "muslim' would be an 'ethnicity'…. – wetcircuit Mar 17 '19 at 21:02
  • 1
    "Muslim refers to religion while Arab is an ethnicity and in fact more than 60 percent of Arab Americans are Christians." <- This is the first usage example from that page. – AGirlHasNoName Mar 17 '19 at 21:28
  • 2
    Ethnicity is not religion. A subset of ethnic groups are ethnoreligious groups - for them culture and religion and tradition are all mixed together. Jews are one example. But not all ethnic groups are ethnoreligious. For example, you have Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs - same ethnicity, different religions. And there are many Muslims (and Christians, obviously) who are not Arabs - same religion, different ethnicities. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 17 '19 at 21:28
  • 1
    Nothing here is raising my hackles. :) I only start getting angry when someone tries to tell me Judaism is not an ethnicity because it is a religion. I upvoted the idea of having the tag, and I stand behind that. And I'd stick the tag on anything that seems more or less relevant. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 17 '19 at 21:45
  • 1
    Maybe we should call it "ethnicity-and-race" to avoid arguments about ethnicity and race being different. With regards to the questions that would be asked, those two are close enough. (And honestly, I don't understand what race is anyway, except "basis for unfair discrimination that significantly affects people's lives".) – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 17 '19 at 21:47
  • 1
    @bruglesco You can differentiate ethnic religions further into those that accept no converts (e.g. Druze) and those where conversion makes you part of the "people" - you join ethnically, religiously, everything (e.g. Judaism). I don't see how any of it is an argument against having the tag though. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 17 '19 at 21:51
  • 1
    Is 'ethnicity-race-religion' too long for a tag? – wetcircuit Mar 17 '19 at 21:57
  • 2
    What about ancestry to cover race and ethnicity together? (it would also overlap some with religion in the cases where the communities overlap with ancestral groups...Druze, Jews, Mennonites, etc.). In genealogy, we use "ancestry" to neatly put race and ethnicity together. – Cyn says make Monica whole Mar 19 '19 at 15:17
  • 2
    @Cyn I like ancestry. It covers race and ethnicity (the topics that started this), it covers religion when relevant, and it excludes subjects that are less relevant. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 19 '19 at 20:28

What if we made a tag for ? This would encompass most of the items listed here, and probably a few we didn't intend, but that might not be a bad thing.

I've also wondered if a would be helpful. After all, it's a book genre too.

  • 1
    A separate "religion" tag for real-life religions in stories, religious books, exploring religious themes, and also invented religions - sounds good and right. "Culture" - I am not sure. For one thing, I don't see myself figuring out intuitively and without reading the tag wiki what this tag should be applied to. It also excludes the skin-colour questions that started @wetcircuit's line of thought. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 19 '19 at 10:30
  • While it's true that tags should be reasonably intuitive, they also can mean what we want them to mean with good wiki. Culture might be reasonable on its own and ethnicity could come later if there isn't support for it now. – Cyn says make Monica whole Mar 19 '19 at 15:13

I think that yes, "ethnicity-religion-and-rance" is a good tag. There are multiple questions about those themes, I can see the tag being used a lot.

However, let's define the scope of the tag. Are those in our out:

  • Fantasy races (elves, dwarves, etc.)
  • Fantastical racism (elves discriminating against dwarves)
  • Fantasy religions (various gods being active in the story, appearing as characters etc.)
  • Dead religions (a.k.a. mythologies)
  • Secular ideologies (inasmuch as they bear similarities to organised religion)
  • My instinct says: "how is there ever an authoritative answer about a made-up species/religion?" but if you detail the society for realism and sub-groups, I think it works.... The discrimination part would probably reflect real life… A question about Ancient Greeks is still an ethnic group, but a question about Zeus's superpowers, I'm not so sure… Someone writing about 'secular ideologies' would probably self-select 'philosophy' instead of 'religion'… – wetcircuit Mar 18 '19 at 14:23
  • God appearing in the story…. I would say if I am trying to tell a story about Native Americans and their encounter with a trickster "god", that seems like 'ethnicity-religion'. A story about Nyarlathotep is not ethnicity or religion, it's a monster, but I guess if you are writing about the religion and worshipers of a made up monster-god, it would still fit…? – wetcircuit Mar 18 '19 at 14:29
  • 2
    In what way are questions about how to write about real world minorities related to writing about fantasy races?!? Questions about gender, race, religion, and ethnicity usually deal with how to write considerately about people who face a lot of abuse and hate in our world. Usually the writers asking those questions want to avoid unintentional propagation of prejudices. On the other hand, people asking about unicorns or ogres aren't usually concerned with portraying a minority correctly or without hatred, but with worldbuilding, character development, and other uncontroversial problems. – user37351 Mar 18 '19 at 16:17

If we go by wordcount alone, there should definitely be a and a tag. But does a "random" tag make sense? Probably not.

That said, there certainly is a concern that many writers share when they ask questions about ethnicities, race (in the singular, not fantasy races!), gender, and religion, and that concern is not limited to writing about these topics but is much broader. Behind these questions is a concern about both

1. How to write respectfully about people?

as well as about

2. How to not fall victim to misunderstandings by over-zealous social justice warriors?

If we wanted to name every controversial topic in this tag, it would have to be named , because eating meat (or not) is no less controversial than whether or not you believe in climate change or shave your body hair.

I do find the proposed tag sensible, but would suggest that it does not get named for a selection of controversial topics, but by the unifiying principle behind these questions, namely or something similarly abstract and general.

  • 1
    Gender already exists and is used as this would be intended. There are a few "fantasy genders" thrown in the mix but somehow we survive.... The argument against a mile-long tag is called "reductio ad absurdum"…. I won't bother explaining the difference between a regional culture or having inherited physical traits which identify you as an ethnic group, verses making voluntary life choices like what college sorority you picked or what restaurants you eat at, I shouldn't need to. – wetcircuit Mar 18 '19 at 17:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .