What does it mean to be a minority in America?

Jonah Fouser, Journalist

From a quick look at Ipswich High School one might think there aren’t many minorities, but that might not be the truth. There are many different opinions on what a minority is. The literal definition of a minority is, “a number or amount that is less than half of a total.”. A lot of people consider this to be the only criteria to be a minority, being in a group that is less than 50% of the population, but others think that there are other conditions that are needed. People think that one has to be oppressed, look different from the majority, and/or have fewer privileges than the general population. This brings up a major question: what is a minority? In order for someone to be a minority they have to both be less than 50% of the population and be less fortunate than the majority.

Being 50% of the population isn’t the only criteria for being a minority. Would you consider people of the Green Party, the elderly, or people with blue eyes to be minorities? Yet they all make up a very small proportion of the population. These groups don’t have physical characteristics that would cause harsh discrimination. A Muslim person wearing a hijab could be killed simply for doing so. Sociologist Louis Wirth said, “The lack of significant distinguishing characteristics keeps certain groups from being classified as minorities” (3). People who are “minorities” simply because the numbers say so don’t experience institutionalized oppression and racism like African Americans, people of the LGBT community, and other oppressed minorities have.

Some people don’t believe it’s that easy to define someone as a minority. Ipswich High School’s own Sara Whitmore said, “to be a minority is defined by the individual. Anyone could be a minority in different circumstances that could pertain to race, religion, sexual orientation, gender…etc.” Sara is a self-identifying minority who has a somewhat unique outlook on the “definition” of being a minority. She believes that one can self identify as a minority, and she doesn’t believe it’s all up to the numbers. “There are many different factors that can allow someone to define themselves as a minority. It’s not always up to numbers,” said Whitmore. She says that she has been a victim of discrimination in the community because she is an African American. If fact she believes that, “When it comes to racial minorities and religious minorities in America there is definitely more oppression and discrimination that is widely visible to the public.”

There are many other people with different opinions though. Our own Mr. Ames believes to be a minority one just has to make up less than 50% of the population. He says, “The minority thing bothers me. The label that goes with that is the oppression of a smallish group. Most groups are oppressed in some shape or fashion. White males being the least of that bunch.” He is also a self-identifying minority because he is a white male. “We’re not the majority of the bunch. Not even close. Are we oppressed? Depends on where you go,” Ames said. He says he’s been the victim of gender and race discrimination in his lifetime. Even though this is so, he still believes that white men are discriminated against the least of all the minorities in America. Even though he has been discriminated against there isn’t an institutionalized racism towards white men. They aren’t oppressed nearly as bad as many of the minority groups we know. “The most oppressed groups are… between Native Americans and people of the LGBT community,” said Mr. Ames. He doesn’t think that all minorities are oppressed, but he does realize that some are oppressed and that some are oppressed more than others.

There are minorities all over the country. You may not see many in Ipswich High School, but there are some. Even though there may not be many minorities in Ipswich doesn’t mean they aren’t the victims of discrimination. It’s very hard to make a clear definition of a minority. The whole minority thing bothers Mr. Ames because he doesn’t really think there is a “normal. ” During his interview he said, “What is normal really? I guess the white corporate culture of America, but even that’s under fire, so I’ve got no answers for that one.” Of course some people think it’s important to have minorities labeled. The government has identified four groups to be minorities (African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Hawaiian Natives). It’s important not to throw around the word minority. It’s a strong word. Sara Whitmore said, “Being a minority is not just a label you can use whenever you want. It’s something that defines your life and is not something you can change about yourself.”

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