as identity / narrative /
as identity / narrative / culture (USA)
“Minority” in American speech, government, and multicultural studies loosely describes any ethnic or gender group that is either non-white, non-male, or non-heterosexual. "Minority" rarely describes lower socio-economic classes, though the categories of class and race or ethnicity often overlap in casual use.
This instructor's multicultural courses impose more specific and quantifiable meanings, but, as with all language, meanings shift with contexts and evolve with changing times.
categories—historical; physical or cosmetic; and socioeconomic or class
behaviors or values—identify American minorities:
particular ethnic groups' historical experience of involuntary contact, exploitation, and deprivation instead of opportunity and freedom (as with immigrants).
distinguishing physical markers including the color code, dress codes, speech differences, etc.
socioeconomic or class behaviors or values that the dominant culture regards as distasteful or counter-productive but which may affirm minority identity if only as resistance or not selling out to the culture that has historically oppressed and despised you.
These three aspects are explained & detailed further down, but for American Minority Literature & American Immigrant Literature, the following table provides ready prompts for its objective & presentation requirements for identifying minority identity or voice. (Students may choose any prompts from any column.)
For specific histories of racial / ethnic groups described as enduring minorities:
Why are minority and multicultural issues so persistent and powerful in American culture and identity?
History vs. ideals: The Declaration of Independence proclaims that "all men are created equal" with "inalienable rights" of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but the same document and the U.S. Constitution identify American Indians and African Americans as outside this status, reflecting the USA's original sins of taking American Indian land and kidnapping Africans as slave labor.
Social structures: The Declaration's proclamation of "equality" and the American Dream of socio-economic mobility imply that the USA is a classless society, in contrast to Old-World European societies that were largely structured by class.
In America, race and gender assume the structuring identities formerly assumed by class. "Everybody knows their place." (In fact, class continues to be, and is increasing as, a factor in American society. European societies now have more social mobility than American society.)
Other ethnic groups that may trend to minority status (sometimes called "downward assimilation," in which people gravitate to the most dangerous aspects of American culture like cynicism, despair, escapism, get-rich-quick schemes, crime, and other "symptoms" listed above.)
Scotch-Irish or White heartland Americans
left behind economically by globalization and de-industrialization
aversion to government and public education
disdain for outsiders or other cultures leading to social isolation (including lack of continuing migration)
maintenance of traditional gender roles and extended families despite nuclear-family breakdown through divorce, lower marriage rates, early child-bearing.