Minority group

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In sociology, a minority group refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group. [1] 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), disability, or gender identity. [2] 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). [3] 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. [3]

Categorization is something that humans and other organisms do: "doing the right thing with the right kind of thing." The doing can be nonverbal or verbal. For humans, both concrete objects and abstract ideas are recognized, differentiated, and understood through categorization. Objects are usually categorized for some adaptive or pragmatic purpose. Categorization is grounded in the features that distinguish the category's members from nonmembers. Categorization is important in learning, prediction, inference, decision making, language, and many forms of organisms' interaction with their environments.

Ethnic group Socially defined category of people who identify with each other

An ethnic group, or an ethnicity, is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation. Ethnicity is usually an inherited status based on the society in which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art or physical appearance.

A race is a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society. First used to refer to speakers of a common language and then to denote national affiliations, by the 17th century the term race began to refer to physical (phenotypical) traits. Modern scholarship regards race as a social construct, an identity which is assigned based on rules made by society. While partially based on physical similarities within groups, race is not an inherent physical or biological quality.

Contents

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. [4] Minority group members often face discrimination in multiple areas of social life, including housing, employment, healthcare, and education, among others. [5] [6] 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. [7] 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. [8]

Discourse written or spoken conversation

Discourse denotes written and spoken communications:

In human social behavior, discrimination is treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction towards, a person based on the group, class, or category to which the person is perceived to belong. These include age, colour, criminal record, height, disability, ethnicity, family status, gender identity, generation, genetic characteristics, marital status, nationality, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. Discrimination consists of treatment of an individual or group, based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or social category, "in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated". It involves the group's initial reaction or interaction going on to influence the individual's actual behavior towards the group leader or the group, restricting members of one group from opportunities or privileges that are available to another group, leading to the exclusion of the individual or entities based on illogical or irrational decision making.

Structural inequality is defined as a condition where one category of people are attributed an unequal status in relation to other categories of people. This relationship is perpetuated and reinforced by a confluence of unequal relations in roles, functions, decisions, rights, and opportunities. As opposed to cultural inequality, which focuses on the individual decisions associated with these imbalances, structural inequality refers specifically to the inequalities that are systemically rooted in the normal operations of dominant social institutions, and can be divided into categories like residential segregation or healthcare, employment and educational discrimination.

Definitions

Sociological

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". [9] 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. [10] 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. [9]

Louis Wirth American sociologist (1897-1952)

Louis Wirth was an American sociologist and member of the Chicago school of sociology.

Society Social group involved in persistent social interaction

A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societies are characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent of members. In the social sciences, a larger society often exhibits stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.

Ascribed status is the social status a person is assigned at birth or assumed involuntarily later in life. It is a position that is neither earned nor chosen but assigned. These rigid social designators remain fixed throughout an individual's life and are inseparable from the positive or negative stereotypes that are linked with one's ascribed statuses.

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. [11]

Joe Feagin American sociologist

Joe Richard Feagin is a U.S. sociologist and social theorist who has conducted extensive research on racial and gender issues, especially in regard to the United States. He is currently the Ella C. McFadden Distinguished Professor at Texas A&M University. Feagin has taught at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, University of California, Riverside, University of Texas at Austin, University of Florida, and Texas A&M University.

Criticisms

There is a controversy with the use of the word minority, as it has a generic and an academic usage. [12] 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. [13]

Some sociologists have criticised the concept of "minority/majority", arguing this language excludes or neglects changing or unstable cultural identities, as well as cultural affiliations across national boundaries. [14] 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 underrepresentation of particular groups in various areas of social life. [15]

Political

The term national minority is often used to discuss minority groups in international and national politics. [16] All countries contain some degree of racial, ethnic, or linguistic diversity. In addition, minorities may also be immigrant, indigenous or landless nomadic communities. [17] This often results in variations in language, culture, beliefs, practices, that set some groups apart from the dominant grop. As these differences are usually perceived negatively by, this results in loss of social and political power for members of minority groups. [18]

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. [19] The right to self-determination is a key issue.

The formal level of protection of national minorities is highest in European countries. [16] The Council of Europe proposes a definition of national minorities in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; however these definitions are not binding upon member states. [20] Using this framework, a national minority can be theoretically defined as a group of people within a given nation state:

  1. which is numerically smaller than the rest of population of the state or a part of the state,
  2. which is not in a dominant position,
  3. which has culture, language, religion, race etc. distinct from that of the majority of the population,
  4. whose members have a will to preserve their group identity,
  5. whose members are citizens of the state where they have the status of a minority, and
  6. whose members have had long-term presence in the territory.

In some places, subordinate ethnic groups may constitute a numerical majority, such as Blacks in South Africa under apartheid. [21] 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". [22] If the non-Hispanic White population falls below 50% the group will only be the plurality, not the majority.

Examples of minority groups

Age minorities

The elderly, while traditionally influential or even (in a gerontocracy) dominant in the past, are now usually reduced to the minority role of economically 'non-active' groups.[ citation needed ] Children can also be understood as a minority group in these terms, and the discrimination faced by the young is known as adultism. Discrimination against the elderly is known as ageism.

Various local and international statutes are in place to mitigate the exploitation of children, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as a number of organizations that make up the children's rights movement. The youth rights movement campaigns for social empowerment for young people, and against the legal and social restrictions placed on legal minors. Groups that advocate the interests of senior citizens range from the charitable (Help the Aged) to grass-roots activism (Gray Panthers), and often overlap with disability rights issues.

Educational minorities

Involuntary minorities

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, [23] and native-born Mexican Americans. [24] 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. [25]

Voluntary minorities

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. [23] 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. [25] Major immigrant groups in the United States include Mexicans, Central and South Americans, Cubans, Africans, and Indians. [24]

Gender and sexuality minorities

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. [26]

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. [26] 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. [26]

People with disabilities

The disability rights movement has contributed to an understanding of people with disabilities (including not to be called 'disabled') 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 .)

Photo of the Rosenbergs in jail Julius and Ethel Rosenberg NYWTS.jpg
Photo of the Rosenbergs in jail

Political minorities

One of the most controversial minorities in the United States and other countries has been communists. Along with the Red Scare and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the United States ran open campaigns to fight, contain and promote fear of communism in the country. Some were persecuted as communist even when they were not actually so: for example, many activists for civil rights were portrayed as inspired by a communist agenda. Communists in the United States, as in many European countries, are often afraid to proclaim their politics, fearing abuse and discrimination from the political majority.

Religious minorities

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. For example, in Egypt, a new system of identity cards [27] requires all citizens to state their religion—and the only choices are Islam, Christianity, or Judaism (See Egyptian identification card controversy).

Regional minorities

Authors have pointed out that many coal workers would be unwilling to move for work or were not likely to be able to be retrained as Appalachians are an "ethnic minority". [28]

Women as minorities

While in most societies, numbers of men and women are roughly equal, the status of women as a subordinate group has led to many social scientists to study them as a minority group. [29] Though women's legal rights and status vary widely across countries, women experience social inequalities relative to men in most societies. [30] Women are often denied access to education, subject to violence, and lack access to the same economic opportunities as men. [31]

Law and government

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.[ citation needed ]

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 [32] 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. [33]

There is debate over recognizing minority groups and their privileges. One view [34] 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. [35]

See also

Related Research Articles

Hate speech is a statement intended to demean and brutalize another, or the use of cruel and derogatory language or gestures on the basis of real or alleged membership in a social group. Hate speech is speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of protected attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The laws of some countries describe hate speech as speech, gestures, conduct, writing, or displays that incite violence or prejudicial actions against a group or individuals on the basis of their membership in the group, or disparages or intimidates a group, or individuals on the basis of their membership in the group. The law may identify a group based on certain characteristics. In some countries, hate speech is not a legal term. Additionally in some countries, including the United States, hate speech is constitutionally protected.

International human rights instruments are treaties and other international documents relevant to international human rights law and the protection of human rights in general. They can be classified into two categories: declarations, adopted by bodies such as the United Nations General Assembly, which are not legally binding although they may be politically so as soft law; and conventions, which are legally binding instruments concluded under international law. International treaties and even declarations can, over time, obtain the status of customary international law.

Nationality is a legal relationship between an individual person and a state. Nationality affords the state jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the protection of the state. What these rights and duties are varies from state to state.

Affirmative action, also known as reservation in India and Nepal, positive discrimination / action in the United Kingdom, and employment equity in Canada and South Africa, is the policy of promoting the education and employment of members of groups that are known to have previously suffered from discrimination. Historically and internationally, support for affirmative action has sought to achieve goals such as bridging inequalities in employment and pay, increasing access to education, promoting diversity, and redressing apparent past wrongs, harms, or hindrances.

Reverse discrimination is discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. Groups may be defined in terms of disability, ethnicity, family status, gender identity, nationality, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, or other factors.

Passing is the ability of a person to be regarded as a member of an identity group or category different from their own, which may include racial identity, ethnicity, caste, social class, sexual orientation, gender, religion, age and/or disability status. Passing may result in privileges, rewards, or an increase in social acceptance, or be used to cope with stigma. Thus, passing may serve as a form of self-preservation or self-protection in instances where expressing one's true or prior identity may be dangerous. Passing may require acceptance into a community and may also lead to temporary or permanent leave from another community to which an individual previously belonged. Thus, passing can result in separation from one's original self, family, friends, or previous living experiences. While successful passing may contribute to economic security, safety, and avoidance of stigma, it may take an emotional toll as a result of denial of one's previous identity and may lead to depression or self-loathing.

Oppression can refer to an authoritarian regime controlling its citizens via state control of politics, the monetary system, media, and the military; denying people any meaningful human or civil rights; and terrorizing the populace through harsh, unjust punishment, and a hidden network of obsequious informants reporting to a vicious secret police force.

Anti-discrimination law or non-discrimination law refers to legislation designed to prevent discrimination against particular groups of people; these groups are often referred to as protected groups or protected classes. Anti-discrimination laws vary by jurisdiction with regard to the types of discrimination that are prohibited, and also the groups that are protected by that legislation. Commonly, these types of legislation are designed to prevent discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other areas of social life, such as public accommodations. Anti-discrimination law may include protections for groups based on sex, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, mental illness or ability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, sex characteristics, religious, creed, or individual political opinions.

Minority rights are the normal individual rights as applied to members of racial, ethnic, class, religious, linguistic or gender and sexual minorities; and also the collective rights accorded to minority groups. Minority rights may also apply simply to individual rights of anyone who is not part of a majority decision.

In sociology, racialization or ethnicization is the process of ascribing ethnic or racial identities to a relationship, social practice, or group that did not identify itself as such. Racialization or ethnicization is often borne out of the interaction of a group with a group that it dominates and ascribes identity for the purpose of continued domination. While it is often borne out of domination, the racialized and ethnicized group often gradually identifies with and even embraces the ascribed identity and thus becomes a self-ascribed race or ethnicity. These processes have been common across the history of imperialism, nationalism, and racial and ethnic hierarchies.

An ethnic majority describes the numerical dominance of individuals of an ethnic group within the total population of a particular political or geographical entity. Ethnicity refers to genealogy, language, culture, identification with a historical social group and behavioral practices inherited from ancestors, among others, such as diet, art and religion.

Human rights in Nigeria

Human rights in Nigeria are protected under the most current constitution of 1999. Nigeria has made serious improvements in human rights under this constitution though the American Human Rights Report of 2012 notes areas where significant improvement is needed, which include: abuses by Boko Haram, killings by governmental forces, lack of social equality, and issues with freedom of speech. The Human Rights Watch's 2015 World Report states that intensified violence by Boko Haram, restrictions of LGBTIQQ rights, and government corruption continue to undermine the status of human rights in Nigeria.

In sociology and political studies, diversity is the degree of differences in identifying features among the members of a purposefully defined group, such as any group differences in racial or ethnic classifications, age, gender, religion, philosophy, physical abilities, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, intelligence, mental health, physical health, genetic attributes, personality, behavior or attractiveness.

Human rights in Canada have come under increasing public attention and legal protection since World War II. Prior to that time, there were few legal protections for human rights. The protections which did exist focused on specific issues, rather than taking a general approach to human rights. There were notable events in Canada's history which would today be considered violations of human rights.

Christian privilege is any of several advantages bestowed upon Christians in some societies. This arises out of the presumption that Christian belief is a social norm, that leads to the marginalization of the nonreligious and members of other religions through institutional religious discrimination or religious persecution. Christian privilege can also lead to the neglect of outsiders' cultural heritage and religious practices.

Human rights in Fiji

Fiji is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of approximately 849,000. It is made up of Fijians, Indo-Fijians, Europeans, Chinese, other Pacific islanders, and people of mixed racial descent. Fiji has been in a state of political unrest since their independence from Britain in 1970.

The right to sexuality incorporates the right to express one's sexuality and to be free from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. In specific, it relates to the human rights of people of diverse sexual orientations, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and the protection of those rights, although it is equally applicable to heterosexuality. The right to sexuality and freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is based on the universality of human rights and the inalienable nature of rights belonging to every person by virtue of being human.

The modern South Korean LGBT rights movement arose in the 1990s, with several small organizations seeking to combat sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.

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