While many students first entering a sociology classroom are accustomed to conflating the terms “race,” “ethnicity,” and “minority group,” these three terms have distinct meanings for sociologists. The idea of race refers to superficial physical differences that a particular society considers significant, while ethnicity describes shared culture. And the term "minority groups" describe groups that are subordinate, or that lack power in society regardless of skin color or country of origin. For example, in modern U.S. history, the elderly might be considered a minority group due to a diminished status that results from popular prejudice and discrimination against them. Ten percent of nursing home staff admitted to physically abusing an elderly person in the past year, and 40 percent admitted to committing psychological abuse (World Health Organization 2011). In this chapter we focus on racial and ethnic minorities.
Historically, the concept of race has changed across cultures and eras, and has eventually become less connected with ancestral and familial ties, and more concerned with superficial physical characteristics. In the past, theorists have posited categories of race based on various geographic regions, ethnicities, skin colors, and more. Their labels for racial groups have connoted regions (Mongolia and the Caucus Mountains, for instance) or skin tones (black, white, yellow, and red, for example).
Social science organizations including the American Association of Anthropologists, the American Sociological Association, and the American Psychological Association have all taken an official position rejecting the biological explanations of race. Over time, the typology of race that developed during early racial science has fallen into disuse, and the social construction of race is a more sociological way of understanding racial categories. Research in this school of thought suggests that race is not biologically identifiable and that previous racial categories were arbitrarily assigned, based on pseudoscience, and used to justify racist practices (Omi and Winant 1994; Graves 2003). When considering skin color, for example, the social construction of race perspective recognizes that the relative darkness or fairness of skin is an evolutionary adaptation to the available sunlight in different regions of the world. Contemporary conceptions of race, therefore, which tend to be based on socioeconomic assumptions, illuminate how far removed modern understanding of race is from biological qualities. In modern society, some people who consider themselves “white” actually have more melanin (a pigment that determines skin color) in their skin than other people who identify as ”black.” Consider the case of the actress Rashida Jones. She is the daughter of a black man (Quincy Jones), and her best-known roles include Ann Perkins on Parks and Recreation, Karen Filippelli on The Office, and Zooey Rice in I Love You Man, none of whom are black characters. In some countries, such as Brazil, class is more important than skin color in determining racial categorization. People with high levels of melanin may consider themselves "white" if they enjoy a middle-class lifestyle. On the other hand, someone with low levels of melanin might be assigned the identity of "black" if he or she has little education or money.
The social construction of race is also reflected in the way names for racial categories change with changing times. It’s worth noting that race, in this sense, is also a system of labeling that provides a source of identity; specific labels fall in and out of favor during different social eras. For example, the category ”negroid,” popular in the nineteenth century, evolved into the term “negro” by the 1960s, and then this term fell from use and was replaced with “African American.” This latter term was intended to celebrate the multiple identities that a black person might hold, but the word choice is a poor one: it lumps together a large variety of ethnic groups under an umbrella term while excluding others who could accurately be described by the label but who do not meet the spirit of the term. For example, actress Charlize Theron is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed “African American.” She was born in South Africa and later became a U.S. citizen. Is her identity that of an “African American” as most of us understand the term?
Ethnicity is a term that describes shared culture—the practices, values, and beliefs of a group. This culture might include shared language, religion, and traditions, among other commonalities. Like race, the term ethnicity is difficult to describe and its meaning has changed over time. And as with race, individuals may be identified or self-identify with ethnicities in complex, even contradictory, ways. For example, ethnic groups such as Irish, Italian American, Russian, Jewish, and Serbian might all be groups whose members are predominantly included in the “white” racial category. Conversely, the ethnic group British includes citizens from a multiplicity of racial backgrounds: black, white, Asian, and more, plus a variety of race combinations. These examples illustrate the complexity and overlap of these identifying terms. Ethnicity, like race, continues to be an identification method that individuals and institutions use today—whether through the census, affirmative action initiatives, nondiscrimination laws, or simply in personal day-to-day relations.
What Are Minority Groups?
Sociologist Louis Wirth (1945) defined a minority group as “any group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination.” The term minority connotes discrimination, and in its sociological use, the term subordinate group can be used interchangeably with the term minority, while the term dominant group is often substituted for the group that’s in the majority. These definitions correlate to the concept that the dominant group is that which holds the most power in a given society, while subordinate groups are those who lack power compared to the dominant group.
Note that being a numerical minority is not a characteristic of being a minority group; sometimes larger groups can be considered minority groups due to their lack of power. It is the lack of power that is the predominant characteristic of a minority, or subordinate group. For example, consider apartheid in South Africa, in which a numerical majority (the black inhabitants of the country) were exploited and oppressed by the white minority.
According to Charles Wagley and Marvin Harris (1958), a minority group is distinguished by five characteristics: (1) unequal treatment and less power over their lives, (2) distinguishing physical or cultural traits like skin color or language, (3) involuntary membership in the group, (4) awareness of subordination, and (5) high rate of in-group marriage. Additional examples of minority groups might include the LBGT community, religious practitioners whose faith is not widely practiced where they live, and people with disabilities.
Scapegoat theory, developed initially from Dollard’s (1939) Frustration-Aggression theory, suggests that the dominant group will displace its unfocused aggression onto a subordinate group. History has shown us many examples of the scapegoating of a subordinate group. An example from the last century is the way Adolf Hitler was able to blame the Jewish population for Germany’s social and economic problems. In the United States, recent immigrants have frequently been the scapegoat for the nation’s—or an individual’s—woes. Many states have enacted laws to disenfranchise immigrants; these laws are popular because they let the dominant group scapegoat a subordinate group.
The term “minority” is applied to various groups who hold few or no positions of power in a given society.
Define a minority group
The term minority doesn’t necessarily refer to a numeric minority. Women, for example, make up roughly half the population but are often considered a minority group.
Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin into account in order to benefit an underrepresented group.
Affirmative Action – A policy or program providing advantages for people of a minority group who are seen to have traditionally been discriminated against, with the aim of creating a more egalitarian society through preferential access to education, employment, health care, social welfare, etc.
Minority Group – a sociological category that is differentiated, defined, and often discriminated against by those who hold the majority of positions of social power
Minority – Categories of persons who hold few or no positions of social power in a given society.
In the social sciences, “minority” does not just refer to a statistical measure and can instead refer to categories of persons who hold few or no positions of social power in a given society.
Sociologist Louis Wirth defined a minority group as “a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination. ” This definition includes both objective and subjective criteria: membership of a minority group is objectively ascribed by society, based on an individual’s physical or behavioral characteristics, such as ethnicity and race or gender and sexuality. It is also subjectively applied by its members, who may use their status as the basis of group identity or solidarity.
Minority group status is also categorical in nature: an individual who exhibits the physical or behavioral characteristics of a given minority group will be accorded the status of that group and be subject to the same treatment as other members of that minority group.
Racial or Ethnic Minorities
Every large society contains ethnic minorities: subgroups that share a common heritage, which often consists of a shared language, culture (often including a religion), or ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy. In this case, while minority status can be conditioned by a clear numerical difference, more significantly it refers to issues of political power. In some places, subordinate ethnic groups may constitute a numerical majority, such as blacks in South Africa under apartheid.
In addition to long-established ethnic minority populations in various nation-states, ethnic minorities may consist of more recent migrant, indigenous, or landless nomadic communities residing within, or between, a particular national territory.
Gender and Sexuality Minorities
Recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as a minority group or groups has gained prominence in the Western world since the nineteenth century. The abbreviation “LGBT” is currently used to group these identities together. The term queer is sometimes understood as an umbrella term for all non-normative sexualities and gender expressions but does not always signify a minority; rather, as with many gay rights activists of the 1960s and 1970s, it sometimes represents an attempt to highlight sexual diversity in everyone.
While in most societies the numbers of men and women are roughly equal, the status of women as a oppressed group has led some, such as feminists and other participants in women’s rights movements, to identify them as a minority group.
Persons belonging to religious minorities have a faith which is different from that held by the majority population or the population group that is in power. It is now accepted in many multicultural societies around the world that people should have the freedom to choose their own religion, including not having any religion (atheism or agnosticism), and including the right to convert from one religion to another. However, in some countries this freedom is still either formally restricted or subject to cultural bias from the majority population.
The disability rights movement has contributed to an understanding of people with disabilities as a minority or a coalition of minorities who are disadvantaged by society, not just as people who are disadvantaged by their impairments.
Advocates of disability rights emphasize differences in physical or psychological functioning, rather than inferiority: for example, some people with autism argue for acceptance of neuro-diversity, in the same way in which opponents of racism argue for acceptance of ethnic diversity. The deaf community is often regarded as a linguistic and cultural minority rather than a group with disabilities, and some deaf people do not see themselves as having a disability at all. Rather, they are disadvantaged by technologies and social institutions that are designed to cater to the dominant, hearing-unimpaired group.
Affirmative action is a controversial issue, which refers to policies that take factors including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group. This is usually justified as countering the effects of a history of discrimination. Affirmative action can, for example, take the form of a government program to provide immigrant or minority groups who primarily speak a marginalized language with extra teaching in the majority language, so that they are better able to compete for places at university or for jobs.
Ethnic Minority Disparities in Cancer Treatment
Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson discusses minority health research at the National Institute of Health.
Members of the Long-horn Tribe
This tribe is a small branch of ethnic Miao in the western part of Guizhou Province, China. In addition to their small numbers and distinctive ethnicity from the larger Han Chinese majority, they are considered a minority given their relative lack of power in China’s larger political structure.
Source: Boundless. “Minority Groups.” Sociology – Cochise College Boundless, 10 Sep. 2016. Retrieved 24 Feb. 2017 from https://www.boundless.com/users/493555/textbooks/sociology-cochise-college/race-and-ethnicity-10/minorities-81/minority-groups-475-3392/
In sociology, a minority group refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group. Minority group membership is typically based on differences in observable characteristics or practices, such as: ethnicity (ethnic minority), race (racial minority), religion (religious minority), sexual orientation (sexual minority), or disability. Utilizing the framework of intersectionality, it is important to recognize that an individual may simultaneously hold membership in multiple minority groups (e.g. both a racial and religious minority). Likewise, individuals may also be part of a minority group in regard to some characteristics, but part of a dominant group in regard to others.
The term "minority group" often occurs within the discourse of civil rights and collective rights, as members of minority groups are prone to differential treatment in the countries and societies in which they live. Minority group members often face discrimination in multiple areas of social life, including housing, employment, healthcare, and education, among others. While discrimination may be committed by individuals, it may also occur through structural inequalities, in which rights and opportunities are not equally accessible to all. The language of minority rights is often used to discuss laws designed to protect minority groups from discrimination and afford them equal social status to the dominant group.
Louis Wirth defined a minority group as "a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination". The definition includes both objective and subjective criteria: membership of a minority group is objectively ascribed by society, based on an individual's physical or behavioral characteristics; it is also subjectively applied by its members, who may use their status as the basis of group identity or solidarity. Thus, minority group status is categorical in nature: an individual who exhibits the physical or behavioral characteristics of a given minority group is accorded the status of that group and is subject to the same treatment as other members of that group.
Joe Feagin, states that a minority group has five characteristics: (1) suffering discrimination and subordination, (2) physical and/or cultural traits that set them apart, and which are disapproved by the dominant group, (3) a shared sense of collective identity and common burdens, (4) socially shared rules about who belongs and who does not determine minority status, and (5) tendency to marry within the group.
There is a controversy with the use of the word minority, as it has a generic and an academic usage. Common usage of the term indicates a statistical minority; however, academics refer to power differences among groups rather than differences in population size among groups.
The above criticism is based on the idea that a group can be considered minority even if it includes such a large number of people that it is numerically not a minority in society.
Some sociologists have criticized the concept of "minority/majority", arguing this language excludes or neglects changing or unstable cultural identities, as well as cultural affiliations across national boundaries. As such, the term historically excluded groups (HEGs) is often similarly used to highlight the role of historical oppression and domination, and how this results in the under-representation of particular groups in various areas of social life.
The term national minority is often used to discuss minority groups in international and national politics. All countries contain some degree of racial, ethnic, or linguistic diversity. In addition, minorities may also be immigrant, indigenous or landless nomadic communities. This often results in variations in language, culture, beliefs, practices, that set some groups apart from the dominant group. As these differences are usually perceived negatively by, this results in loss of social and political power for members of minority groups.
There is no legal definition of national minorities in international law, though protection of minority groups is outlined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. International criminal law can protect the rights of racial or ethnic minorities in a number of ways. The right to self-determination is a key issue. The Council of Europe regulates minority rights in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
In some places, subordinate ethnic groups may constitute a numerical majority, such as Blacks in South Africa under apartheid. In the United States, for example, non-Hispanic Whites constitute the majority (63.4%) and all other racial and ethnic groups (Hispanic or Latino, African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indian, and Native Hawaiians) are classified as "minorities". If the non-Hispanic White population falls below 50% the group will only be the plurality, not the majority.
Also known as "castelike minorities," involuntary minorities are a term for people who were originally brought into any society against their will. In the United States, for instance, it includes but is not limited to Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and native-born Mexican Americans. For reasons of cultural differences, involuntary minorities may experience difficulties in school more than members of other (voluntary) minority groups. Social capital helps children engage with different age groups that share a common goal.
Immigrants take on minority status in their new country, usually in hopes of a better future economically, educationally, and politically than in their homeland. Because of their focus on success, voluntary minorities are more likely to do better in school than other migrating minorities. Adapting to a very different culture and language make difficulties in the early stages of life in the new country. Voluntary immigrants do not experience a sense of divided identity as much as involuntary minorities, and are often rich in social capital because of their educational ambitions. Major immigrant groups in the United States include Mexicans, Central and South Americans, Cubans, Africans, and Indians.
The term sexual minority is frequently used by public health researchers to recognize a wide variety of individuals who engage in same-sex sexual behavior, including those who do not identify under the LGBTQ umbrella. For example, men who have sex with men (MSM), but do not identify as gay. In addition, the term gender minorities can include many types of gender variant people, such as intersex people, transgender people, or gender non-conforming individuals. However, the terms sexual and gender minority are often not preferred by LGBTQ people, as they represent clinical categories rather than individual identity.
Though lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people have existed throughout human history, LGBT rights movements across many western countries led to the recognition of LGBTQ people as members of a minority group. LGBTQ people represent a numerical and social minority. They experience numerous social inequalities stemming from their group membership as LGBTQ people. These inequalities include social discrimination and isolation, unequal access to healthcare, employment, and housing, and experience negative mental and physical health outcomes due to these experiences.
People with disabilities
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Leading up to the Human Rights Act 1998 in the UK, a rise in the awareness relating to how people with disabilities were being treated began. Many started to believe that they were being denied basic human rights. This act had a section that stated if authorities did not protect people with learning disabilities from others actions such as harm or neglect, then they could be prosecuted.
The disability rights movement has contributed to an understanding of people with disabilities as a minority or a coalition of minorities who are disadvantaged by society, not just as people who are disadvantaged by their impairments. Advocates of disability rights emphasize difference in physical or psychological functioning, rather than inferiority. For example, some people with autism argue for acceptance of neurodiversity, much as opponents of racism argue for acceptance of ethnic diversity. The deaf community is often regarded as a linguistic and cultural minority rather than a group with disabilities, and some deaf people do not see themselves as having a disability at all. Rather, they are disadvantaged by technologies and social institutions that are designed to cater for the dominant group. (See the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.)
People belonging to religious minorities have a faith which is different from that held by the majority. Most countries of the world have religious minorities. It is now widely accepted in the west that people should have the freedom to choose their own religion, including not having any religion (atheism and/or agnosticism), and including the right to convert from one religion to another. However, in many countries this freedom is constricted. In Egypt, a new system of identity cards requires all citizens to state their religion—and the only choices are Islam, Christianity, or Judaism (See Egyptian identification card controversy). Another example is the case of decreasing population of minorities in Pakistan, where they are being forcefully converted or killed.
Women as minorities
In most societies, numbers of men and women are not equal. Though women are not categorically a minority, the status of women as a subordinate group has led to many social scientists to study them as a minority group. Though women's legal rights and status vary widely across countries, women experience social inequalities relative to men in most societies. Women are often denied access to education, subject to violence, and lack access to the same economic opportunities as men.
In the politics of some countries, a "minority" is an ethnic group recognized by law, and having specified rights. Speakers of a legally recognized minority language, for instance, might have the right to education or communication with the government in their mother tongue. Countries with special provisions[which?] for minorities include Canada, China, Ethiopia, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Croatia, and the United Kingdom.
The various minority groups in a country are often not given equal treatment. Some groups are too small or indistinct to obtain minority protections. For example, a member of a particularly small ethnic group might be forced to check "Other" on a checklist of different backgrounds and so might receive fewer privileges than a member of a more defined group.
Many contemporary governments prefer to assume the people they rule all belong to the same nationality rather than separate ones based on ethnicity. The United States asks for race and ethnicity on its official census forms, which thus breaks up and organizes its population into sub-groups, primarily racial rather than national. Spain does not divide its nationals by ethnic group, although it does maintain an official notion of minority languages.
Some especially significant or powerful minorities receive comprehensive protection and political representation. For example, the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina recognizes the three constitutive nations, none of which constitutes a numerical majority (see nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina). However, other minorities such as Romani and Jews, are officially labelled "foreign" and are excluded from many of these protections. For example, they may be excluded from political positions, including the presidency.
There is debate over recognizing minority groups and their privileges. One view is that the application of special rights to minority groups may harm some countries, such as new states in Africa or Latin America not founded on the European nation-state model, since minority recognition may interfere with establishing a national identity. It may hamper the integration of the minority into mainstream society, perhaps leading to separatism or supremacism. In Canada, some[who?] feel that the failure of the dominant English-speaking majority to integrate French Canadians has provoked Quebec separatism.
Others assert that minorities require specific protections to ensure that they are not marginalised: for example, bilingual education may be needed to allow linguistic minorities to fully integrate into the school system and compete equally in society. In this view, rights for minorities strengthen the nation-building project, as members of minorities see their interests well served, and willingly accept the legitimacy of the nation and their integration (not assimilation) within it.
درآمدی بر جامعه شناسی اقلیتها در تاریخ معاصر ایران نویسنده محمد مهدی یوسفی
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