Should DEI Practitioners Still use the term “Minorities”


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Should DEI Practitioners

A term that is bandied about a lot in inclusion conversations, to describe those for whom inclusion work is aimed, is ‘minorities’. The main way this word is used is to describe a group who are a small proportion of the population and by definition not the ‘majority’. We typically hear people speak of ‘ethnic minorities’, for example, who are those who are not the ‘ethnic majority’. 

The problem with the language of minorities is that it communicates that there is a natural order to who is present in our companies that’s about arithmetic. 

But people of color are the global majority. Women are the majority of the world’s population. There are countless examples of groups who are a ‘minority’ who have organized power in their favor through history and into the present, and the existence of these examples proves the redundancy of speaking of ‘minorities’ in inclusion work to describe those who experience disenfranchisement and subordination.

The issue in our organizations ultimately isn’t an issue of numbers, it’s an issue of power asymmetries and how they are maintained. Misapplying arithmetic analyses for analyses of power will not serve our endeavors if transformation is a goal. The language we use frames the action we take, as well as the perimetres of what we deem ‘enough’ action and when we might down tools. 

What can we use instead? MinoritisedThis describes the process by which a group is made into a minority in certain contexts because of how systems of oppression deny that group’s access to resources and participation (among other things) while conversely elevating another group’s access, which is what may make them a majority. Additionally, other more precise terms include people who experience marginalization, people who experience inequities, people who experience [insert the -ism in question], and people who experience oppression.

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