Minority = Less Than

 

One of the themes I often address in my workshops is the fact that perception is a powerful influence on self-identity and self-worth.  In other words, how we see ourselves impacts our attitudes and our “realities.”   For instance, how many times have you turned on a news report about a brutal small-town murder, and heard: “Those sorts of things don’t happen here.”   Or, how many times have you turned on a news report about a family on welfare, and the family shown was “minority,” even though the typical welfare recipient in America was a young, White female?  (How many of you knew that)?

To be more specific, the term “majority” normally connotes not just superiority in numbers but in intelligence and value, while “minority” often connotes the opposite.  Though we have made much progress over the decades, these connotations are still reinforced through media images, and/or lack of public images.

For instance, one need only research the changing imagery of people of color in Hollywood to see both our challenges and our progress.  Or, one may look in on the U.S. Senate floor during any session to see an image lacking diversity, particularly for a body designed to represent all American states.

To combat this image issue, I’ve refrained from using the word “minority” to describe people for over a decade now.  When I address my audiences, I typically challenge them to do the same.  Why?  Because identifying oneself as majority or minority, is simply a matter of perspective.  Are we just Americans, or part of the larger global family?

I thought about this when I read a recent report on The National Policy Institute’s website entitled “Global White Population to Plummet to Single Digit—Black Population to Double.”  The report, rather shockingly, predicts that the world’s White population will fall to 9.76% by 2060.  By contrast, the world’s Black population will increase to 25.38% by the same year.

See the article here.

The report is fascinating given the demographic trending alone.  But there’s much more to this story.  I point out these numbers to insist to all who read this that there is no such thing as “majority” or “minority” any more.  In a world getting smaller by the minute through technological advances in communication and trade, we can no longer, with any real accuracy, assign such arbitrary designations as those that have guided us throughout our country’s history.

Before the internet age, people who saw themselves as “minorities” often did so at the risk of seeing themselves as “less than” in every way.  And, unfortunately, there were those of the “majority” who saw themselves as superior in all ways.  If you don’t believe me, sit idly by and listen to “minorities” speaking to each other.  Tell me if you don’t, at one point or another, hear them, while speaking in a normal tone, all of a sudden bring their voices to a whisper when they say: “white people.”  As if they’re afraid of being heard.  Timid and afraid as they speak those two words, as the shadow of a country’s violent past flashes across their faces.  I tell you that that shadow is not just a reflection of our violent past, but it is a reflection of our own self-perceptions.  Minority = Less Than.

In 1911, the word “minority” wasn’t even used to describe people of color.  In 2011, the term, like our country’s violent past, is slowly fading away.  In 2060, it will have lost its meaning altogether, unless somebody else embraces it.

I say good riddance: to the words, to their connotations, and to the shadows of a violent past that gave them meaning.

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1 Response to "Minority = Less Than"

  • Eugena Holman says:

    “One of the themes I often address in my workshops is the fact that perception is a powerful influence on self-identity and self-worth. ” – Steve thank you for this statement. I spend a great deal of time with the local school mentoring and this is a theme that I too often address.

    “To be more specific, the term “majority” normally connotes not just superiority in numbers but in intelligence and value, while “minority” often connotes the opposite.” – I NEVER consider ourselves the MINORITY. In my workshops the children are encouraged to see themselves as ETHNICALLY ENRICHED. Since we are Americans “part of the larger global family” usually with diverse ethnicity if you added all of the cultures that make up your ancestry YOU ARE A MAJORITY ALL BY YOURSELF!

    “…one may look in on the U.S. Senate floor during any session to see an image lacking diversity, particularly for a body designed to represent all American states.” – I often take notice of this when watching any political symposium. Then I reflect on how many of our ethnically enriched family members believe in the power of self. I see that the representation is reflective of those that actually spend time learning about the political agenda and participate in the vote.

    “To combat this image issue, I’ve refrained from using the word “minority” to describe people for over a decade now. When I address my audiences, I typically challenge them to do the same. Why? Because identifying oneself as majority or minority, is simply a matter of perspective.” – MY TERM IS ETHNICALLY ENRICHED!!

    “I say good riddance: to the words, to their connotations, and to the shadows of a violent past that gave them meaning.” – AMEN!!!

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