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It's the new thing for reality television. Survivor is doing it this season by having four tribes containing members of four different races (white, black, hispanic, and asian). They'll be merging the tribes sooner than later, but basically they've run out of ideas.
I watched last night's episode of The Amazing Race and I completely agree with you about the race thing. The two Muslim friends were VERY religious, and the other contestants even call them 'the muslims'. I realize that the people from Kentucky are called 'the kentucky's' and the people from Alabama are called alabama, but all of them have certain connotations, especially the Muslim name.
For those who don't watch the show, there is also an Indian team, Korean team, gay team, the team who has a troubled relationship, the family team, etc, etc.
You can also say that The Amazing Race is attempting to be 'fresh' by having a variety of races and people, but overall the people seem very formulaic / stereotypical.