I got a tweet from Patricia Duarte last week. She read my last blog on using social media to reach minorities, and suggested that we “start by nixing the term “minorities” from your vocabulary. It’s pejorative and increasingly inaccurate.”
Well, Patricia, I agree. It will soon be completely inaccurate thanks to demographic shifts that are quickly moving minorities to majorities.
However, pejorative, to be fair, is a matter of opinion and context. The term minority certainly began badly. It was a clear cut signal for “less than,” whether that meant intelligence, skill, political power or socio-economic clout. It was also representative of number in many contexts. But things have changed, quite a bit for the better, and those demographic shifts I mentioned have almost single handedly trumped any and every association with less than.
The question now is, what should we use to replace minority? Diversity terminology has evolved along with the practice. We’ve gone through segregation, affirmative action, multiculturalism, diversity and diversity and inclusion as its own cohesive phrase. Some suggest we nix diversity altogether and just focus on inclusion, and there’s probably a hand full of terms that should have been in my list that I’ve forgotten.
I am aware the term minority is a loaded and potentially inaccurate one, but I continue to use it because it’s common. When I write it or speak it, my audience knows what I’m talking about, and when writing about potentially divisive and quite often controversial subject matter, establishing a base line for communication is necessary for meaningful dialogue to occur.
Still, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the term minority’s days are numbered. I’d already begun to use it more selectively when Patricia offered her considered opinion. So, I’ll throw the ball in your court now. What term or phrase could we use to replace minority? I welcome your thoughts.
A version of the blog appeared in Diversity Executive magazine online.