Race, Nationality, National Origins and Ethnicity


In September 2014, race will become the first of a number of characteristics protected under the Jersey’s new anti-discrimination law.

According to the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013, race includes –
(a) colour;
(b) nationality;
(c) national origins;
(d) ethnic origins.

Most people have an understanding of what colour means when talking about a person’s race. It refers to your skin colour, e.g. white, black, olive, brown. However, the subtleties of what characteristics are being referred to when talking about a person’s nationality, national origin and ethnic origin are more difficult.

Nationality v national origin

Your nationality is the specific legal relationship between a person and a state, whether by birth or naturalisation in the case of an immigrant. Thus, a Jerseyman who emigrates to Australia, applies for naturalisation and passes the Australian citizenship test has a nationality of Australian.

National origin is the nation from which a person originates. For example, a British citizen might have a national origin of England, Scotland, Wales or Jersey, depending on where they originate. National origin must have identifiable historical and geographical elements which, at some point in time, indicate the existence of a nation. National origin is not something an individual can change (though origin can change through the generations of a family).

National origin v ethnic origin

Everyone has an ethnic origin but ethnicity or ethnic origin only applies in the new law where a person belongs to an ethnic group as defined by the courts. For a group to be an ethnic group it must regard itself and be regarded by others as a distinct and separate community because of certain characteristics that usually distinguish it from the surrounding community. The two essential characteristics for an ethnic group are a long shared history and a cultural tradition of its own, which may include a common geographical descent, language, literature or religion; being a minority group; or having a history of being oppressed. Jews, Rastafarians, Irish Travellers and Romany Gypsies have all been held to be valid ethnic groups (Liverpudlians, for example, are not an ethnic group). Further, a British man of Jersey national origin but Portuguese parents might identify himself as being of Portuguese ethnicity because of his home life. Conversely, a Briton of English national origin who has lived in Jersey for years may report himself as having Jersey ethnic origin.

Just as nationality can be adopted, so can ethnic origin. It is possible for a person to adopt the ethnic origin of a group as their own and to integrate the culture, history, language, literature and/or religion of that group into their own identity. For example, people who convert to Judaism may consider their ethnic origin to be Jewish because it is more important to be them to be associated with this social group than any other ethnic group to which they might have a claim to belong. For this reason, it is not always possible to know what someone’s ethnic origin is without asking them.

Here are 10 famous faces with their racial descriptions (as taken from their biographies on Wikipedia – as already stated, the people concerned may not necessarily agree with our descriptions and you would need to ask them, especially about their ethnic origins):

obama Barack Obama
Colour: black, nationality: USA, national origin: USA, ethnic origin: Kenyan/Hawaiian-American/Indonesian

Sammy Davis Jr Sammy Davis, Jr
Colour: black, nationality: USA, national origin: USA, ethnic origin: Afro-Cuban/African-American/Jewish (Davis converted to Judaism and famously referred to himself as a “one-eyed Negro Jew”)

sophie_okonedo Sophie Okonedo
Colour: black, nationality: British, national origin: England, ethnic origin: British-Nigerian/Polish-Russian/Ashkenazi Jewish

Sacha_baron_cohen Sacha Baron Cohen
Colour: white, nationality: British, national origin: England, ethnic origin: Welsh/German-Jewish

lulu Lulu
Colour: white, nationality: British, national origin: Scotland, ethnic origin: Scottish

bruce_lee Bruce Lee
Colour: yellow, nationality: USA/Hong Kong, national origin: USA, ethnic origin: Hong Kong-Chinese/Chinese-American

Vanessa Mae Vanessa-Mae
Colour: yellow, nationality: British, national origin: Singapore, ethnic origin: Singapore/Thai/Chinese/British

Omid_Djalili Omid Djalili
Colour: white (although there is disagreement about their colour category among Middle Eastern peoples), nationality: British, national origin: England, ethnic origin: British/Bahá’í (Iranian)

zolabudd Zola Budd
Colour: white, nationality: British, national origin: South Africa, ethnic origin: South African-British (Budd spends a lot of time in the USA now so may have USA nationality or dual USA/British nationality and may consider her ethnic origin to also include American)

Naveen_Andrews Naveen Andrews
Colour: brown, nationality: USA, national origin:England, ethnic origin: British-Asian/Malayali Nasrani (Kerala, India)

For more information about how the new Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013 will affect your business, please telephone 01534 887088 or to book a place on our training courses on race discrimination, please email cara.leheuze@lawatworkci.com

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