Should You Use the Word 'Minority'?

Question: What do you or DiversityInc think about the use of the word "minority"? In my personal life, I have begun to use the term "people of color" to represent anyone non-white. I find the word "minority" offensive and degrading to the people it represents, regardless of race. But more so because the word is originally a math term meaning "the smaller part or number; a number, part, or amount forming less than half of the whole."

Luke Visconti's Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.


Question:

What do you or DiversityInc think about the use of the word "minority"? In my personal life, I have begun to use the term "people of color" to represent anyone non-white. I find the word "minority" offensive and degrading to the people it represents, regardless of race. But more so because the word is originally a math term meaning "the smaller part or number; a number, part, or amount forming less than half of the whole." I am concerned about children growing up hearing themselves being referred to as a minority and society telling them that they are "less than" before they even have a chance to prove themselves. Your thoughts?

Answer:

I agree. I avoid the word "minority" as much as possible. It's also DiversityInc's editorial policy.

I also don't like the use of the word "diverse" to represent everyone but white people. All human beings are a part of "diversity."

Along the same lines I see the use of "affinity" or "network" to describe employee-resource groups. Most white people don't perceive the need for an "affinity" or "network" group. ("That's for 'them.'")

Everyone needs a "resource."

Most white people do not understand the oppressive power of language. I regularly hear white people belittle respectful language as being "politically correct." This is the chafing of people used to speaking any way they wish to people who did not care to (and/or could not) respond in kind. I've learned not to deny other people their own reality.

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Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 17 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.

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