When it comes to diversity issues, language is important and complex. That’s why a single essay in Odyssey became a bombshell when it proposed that we should use the word “minoritized,” rather than “minority” to describe those impacted by social disparity.
The Problem with “Minority”
As the author explained in the article, the dictionary definition of the noun “minority” is a word that describes a small group of people who have less power and authority because of the group’s population size. And the basis for setting these groups apart from the “majority” population tends to relate to a sociological or demographic characteristic such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
Thus the stamp of “minority” minimizes these populations, reflecting their power dynamic. And it may not even accurately reflect their numbers. For example, women are often labeled as a minority group, even though statistically speaking, women make up a larger percentage of the population than men (52%).
Why Minorized May Be a Better Option
Therefore, the author argues for adopting minoritized because it reflects the idea that a group of people is being marginalized in society. It is a verb, rather than a noun, to underscore that another part of the population is actively doing something to reduce others’ status. And the verb also drives home the idea that this is a transitory status rather than an inherent, permanent state; their entire being is not defined by being “a minority.” In that way, it is in keeping with other recent linguistic changes such as “people with a disability” rather than “disabled people” and “people experiencing homelessness” rather than “homeless people.”
On the other hand, critics say that “minoritized” is an equally loaded term, because it suggests that one group is actively trying to oppress another, while “minority” simply reflects their status as it is.
The jury is still out on the term, but both arguments should give us pause—to think about how language defines us and our roles and how complicated these issues can be.
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