Perhaps we need a new word for “minority”

Because if you’re the majority, it probably stops making sense to call you a “minority.”

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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16 Responses to Perhaps we need a new word for “minority”

  1. upyernoz says:

    individual minorities are still minorities. the number of white births may have fallen below 50%, but no other group is in the majority either. so the percentage of births of african americans, hispanics and asian americans added together is over 50%, but each one of those constituent groups is still less than the majority.

    so there are still minorities. there just isn’t a non-minority group anymore. personally, i think it’s a better country if no one group is a majority.

  2. Lizzie says:

    Normally, I’m right with you.

    But on this issue … it’s just not that simple.

    Minority isn’t a term identifying races by their actual percentages of population … it’s always been about power, say-so, weight in decision- and law-making in the country. If you think because white births dropped below 50% that makes whites the minority … you need to take a better look around at the world we live in.

    I’m also with upyernoz … grouping all the “minorities” together in one rush to 50% doesn’t make sense.

  3. feministplus says:

    Some black feminists (and others) use the word ‘minoritised’, which highlights a distinction based not on stats but on the active process of oppression and isolation which white societies inflict on non-white groups. Thus distinguishing groups like e.g. green-eyed people (who are a minority but not minoritised) and e.g. black people in black-majority areas (who are not a minority, but are minoritised).

    Don’t know if this is just a UK thing or not, though.

  4. Lance says:

    I’m not looking forward to dumbass racists/right wing radio using this to start arguing “Well now I’m a minority! Where’s my special treatment!?!” (I think I’ll be skipping Thanksgiving with the family this year.)

  5. Tina says:

    A minority is considered one of the groups that are underrepresented in the powerful positions that govern us (whether it be actual government, business or what have you) rather than the numerical minority of a certain population. Women have always been a minority even though women and girls are 51% of the population. Or was that the point? The article just mentioned that non-whites are greater in number than whites. I’m not sure you can even count “non-white” as one group, it’s still made up of many distinct groups.

    Would the concept of minority be better served by using a different word, especially since non-whites are growing larger in number? Maybe. It would probably help feminists talk about women as a minority, since I hear/read all the time that women aren’t a minority.

  6. Alara Rogers says:

    The term “minority” is problematic anyway.

    Under South African apartheid, the majority native African population were oppressed by the minority white Boers colonials. The Spartans were vastly outnumbered by their slaves, the Helots, and oppressed them anyway. And we all know that women numerically outnumber men.

    “Disadvantaged” might be better. After all, poor people in the US vastly outnumber rich people but receive the same kind of poor comparative treatment that minorities receive at the hands of majorities.

    I’m not a minority, but I am disadvantaged. The numerical superiority of my peeps has not prevented men from dominating us for 5,000 years. And it won’t matter if 51% of the nation is black Hispanics if 75% of Congress is still white Anglos.

  7. “And it won’t matter if 51% of the nation is black Hispanics if 75% of Congress is still white Anglos.”

    That’s really the point right there. It isn’t the people, it’s the power structure. Who gets to make decisions and who benefits/suffers from those decisions. In that way, whites remain the default majority, regardless of numbers.

  8. Crys T says:

    My field is lesser-used languages, and the distinction used above by feministplus between “minority” and “minoritised” is pretty standard for us, and I have to say that I find it very useful, as well as being pretty easy to explain to people who haven’t come across it before.

  9. Angie unduplicated says:

    Will “excluded” do? The white boys at the top do everything possible to make this term a reality.

  10. im says:

    This is pathetic, and the only people who pretend to sympathize with that statement are, unlike myself, subjugatory racists. Much to my frustrated anger.

  11. Sisou says:

    They/ we could just use People of Color . Too radical and scary though?

  12. matlun says:

    According to the article this is not believed to become true until 2042 (“The census has forecast that non-Hispanic whites will be outnumbered in the United States by 2042”).

    Still I guess it is an interesting (if obvious) observation that you can have a privileged minority oppressing a majority. Just look at the Occupy 1% usage coming from a class analysis.

  13. Nancy Green says:

    on the positive side, enfranchisement, representation, access, equal opportunity, an equal voice in matters that affect us– these are some of the tools of democracy that have been robbed from citizens for many reasons, but the history of color prejudice and oppression is recent and still affecting us. It’s a kind of amnesia to pretend that we are post-racial and that skin color isn’t a factor in how an American is treated from birth to death.

  14. jpe says:

    POC is too awkward, and while colored people would be the simpler alternative, it probably won’t fly, either. “minority” is fine; I don’t think too many people will struggle with its transition from literal to nominal.

  15. Sisou says:

    Why is POC awkward? it is mean as a postive as opposed negative term. While, minority has been outdated for a long time (at least in the US). In fact, it makes me sad that commenters seem so unaware of the alternatives terms for “minority” or ” non-white”.

    Colored people and POC have no relationship to each other. POC and WOc is based in a history of empowerment and solidarity. IMHO Minority and non-white is based in labeling us as ” the others”, not white, not them,not right, smaller, less than.

  16. Shigekuni says:

    I wonder about “POC”. A few friends I have from India find the term offensive, and I guess I can see the point. White Anglo-Saxon Christians have always been ‘unmarked’, and that is what the term POC continues to do: some people have color, others don’t. They are not white, because that would be a color, they are simply unmarked, without color, the basis. I agree that this is somewhat problematic. So since I was upbraided a few times I started to stay away from the term.

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