Let’s Retire “Minorities”

I heard another report this morning about the effect of the recession on minorities. They were talking specifically about African Americans and Latinos, as the report later explained. Now I’m not going to comment on the economy today but I do have some thoughts about the word minorities. Can’t we retire that word?

In the first place, if you’re reading this in parts of the U.S. such as California, Texas, or Florida, it’s completely inaccurate to refer to people of color as minorities. Look around people! Have you noticed that birth rates among people of color, while slowing from where they were in the last century, are still higher amongst people of color than among caucasians.  In many parts of the country, caucasians are the minority. So we need to be a lot more specific in describing people when we use the word “minority”. And maybe in a future post I can explore the use of the word “caucasian”. Most white people I know can’t trace their heritage to this small section of southern Russia.

My second beef is that minority is a divisive word. It separates people instead of connecting them. It screams “Them” and “Us”. And for decades the word was used as a not-so-subtle putdown. If you were a minority you were clearly not part of the power elite. You weren’t one of the cool kids. It was code. And people use code to hide things, like their true beliefs. People use code to withhold information from those who are different. This is why minorities is such an awful word and one we need to retire. It’s divisive, inaccurate and insulting.

Use inclusive, people first language. Refer to people by who they are instead of who they’re not. People of color, not minorities. People who use wheelchairs, not the disabled. People who were incarcerated, not ex-cons. If we continue to focus on the differences, and people’s perceived shortcomings, it’s going to be awfully hard for organizations to get people working together.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Retire “Minorities”

  1. I wish we could get rid of all the effects of majority/minority what ever we decide to be called or to call others. “people of color” have been called lots of names over the years but the effects have not changed much at all.

  2. Alicia,
    You’re right, labels tend to separate rather than include. Just one more reason we need to get closer to referring to people by more descriptive “people first” language than trying to define a group by one coincident trait. Let’s work to concentrate on individuals than groups. And one by one we’ll make a difference.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Only the best,

  3. I totally agree, Ron. I, as someone who would be labeled a”minority”, was never comfortable with that word. I remember years ago, as an undergraduate student, hearing a speaker at a lecture make an interesting point. He was, interestingly enough, referring to the Hispanic students within the auditorium, and he himself was of that cultural background. He stated (I’m paraphrasing): “you know, people look at Hispanics and call us “minorities”. You know what… I hate that word. Minority equates to “less than”. I’m not lesser than anyone.” He received a resounding applause.

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