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.