Commentary: Should We Have a Different Word for "Minority?"

Using the term minority to describe brown people eventually will be inaccurate, an op-ed columnist states. She’s only halfway right.

Posted: 06/19/2012 05:48 PM EDT

“Is it time for the term 'minority' to be replaced?” That's the question at the top of a new op-ed column in Albany’s Times Union newspaper. Writer Madeline Ryan goes on to explain her initial question a bit more:

Statistically, racial groups that have come to be known as minorities (African American, Latino, Asian, mixed race and others) are becoming less of a 'minority' i
n America. As this shift continues, should there be a new term to replace "minority?" 

The United States has reached a drastic shift in racial demographics. For the first time in the country’s history, white births are no longer the majority. With this, the 2010 Census has predicted that by 2042, non-Hispanic whites will be outnumbered in the general population.

Ryan’s argument seems simple enough: Soon, white people will be an actual numerical minority in America, turning the traditional meaning of the word minority on its head. While I get where she’s coming from, completely abandoning the term minority to describe people of color throws the baby out with the bathwater. It also fails to recognize that the term will still be effective and accurate when discussing a great many number of ethnicities.

It seems that what people assume when they talk about the "white minority by 2050" statistic is that, at that time, the nation’s going to be overtaken by one large mass of brown people. Nothing could be further from reality. In 2050, according to the projection, Latinos will make up 60 percent of the population — not all people of color, mind you, but Latinos. With that in mind, recognize that just as we do now, Americans will continue to divide ourselves by race and color well into the future, making the term minority as it pertains to Black and brown people still wildly important.

Blacks are going to remain a minority in 2050, as are Asians and Native Americans. Calling those groups anything but "minority groups" would be inaccurate, and it would only serve to muddy the situation even more than it already is.

Also important to recognize is what the word minority has come to mean: A group oppressed because of its social standing in America. In this way, women have been considered a minority group despite the fact that they make up 51 percent of the U.S. population.

If the white population would like to be called a minority group come 2050, I’m all for it; it would, to a certain degree, be accurate. But if, in 2050, the majority of Congress is made up of white people, as I believe it will be, let us understand they will be a minority group that continues to wield the power of a majority group.


And if you’ve got all the power, who cares if there are fewer of you?

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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