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MINORITY: at least four-fifths of the world’s population consists of people of color. The use of “mi

November 10, 2008

Summary: at least four-fifths of the world's population consists of people of color. Therefore, it is statistically incorrect as well as ethnocentric to refer to us as minorities. The term 'minority' is used to reinforce the idea of people of color as 'other'" (Amoja Three Rivers, Cultural Etiquette). In addition, "minority" as used today is too often code for poor black and Hispanic people. Alicia S. Jameson says "minority" ("this extremely popular eurocentric word makes my flesh crawl") has come to be a catchword for any group being denied a full share of the American pie. However, the American Heritage Book of English Usage says that, despite some objections, "in the appropriate context, as when discussing a group from a social or demographic point of view, minority is a useful term that you need not avoid as offensive." The use of "minority" has troubled people for some time; as yet we have no good (i.e., instantly graspable and clearly defined) alternatives. Being aware of its shortcomings is a beginning; restricting its use to those instances in which nothing else will do also helps; sometimes it is useful to specify what kind of minority (linguistic/ethnic/religious); in general, reserve the term for groups defined by imbalances of power rather than for groups defined by a characteristic such as sex, ethnicity, income. See also people of color, nonwhite.

For more information on the forthcoming Unspinning the Spin: The Women’s Media Center Guide to Accurate, Bias-Free Language, click here.