As I get older, I’ve learned to really appreciate the chances I get to participating in civil activities like, filling in feedback surveys, applying for government programs or jobs, sending in opinion sheets…
But I’ve also started to notice disconcerting items on these forms that I’ve never really cared about when I was younger.
The biggest one is the section on visible minorities.
For those of you who live in places where you don’t have this section, it’s basically a list of “labels” that you select as applicable to you. For example, Women, Chinese, Black, Aboriginal etc.
As much as I’m all for the “special treatment” you get just because you claim to be a visible minority, I find that this self-categorization does more harm than good.
It creates a boundary (metaphorically and physically) between a self-proclaimed visible minority and the non visible minority (read: white people), since both parties see that section and are aware of what constitutes a visible minority. Some would call it a privilege. I would call it a disability, an inhibition of one’s potential in all aspects.
For example, during a conversation, after judging one’s physical appearance, one would self-categorize, whether consciously or not, as something based on their comparison with whom they are talking to. This can cause friction especially if the two parties have had a long historical record of conflict.
Same goes to finding a job. Everyone knows, even if they choose to dismiss it, that statistically white people have it easier when it comes to job hunting. It all begins with the name. If one doesn’t have a common “white” name, then one is immediately labelled as being minority. Although this may not register as negative at first, it does have a less positive connotation and effect.
The word minority itself is not inherently negative, but it does undeniably invoke a sort of discomfort. No one wants to be called a minority. It’s human nature to want to fit in. Being a minority, one can easily develop a sort of inferior complex especially in the cases where they are competing for a senior executive position. If we look at the demography of the leaders or high-level positioned people, we will quickly notice that most, if not all, are in fact, white.
In my opinion, it’s not a question of trying to group everyone as the same because that is being ignorant in itself. We are all human beings, but we also have developed different cultures that make us different one from another, even in an intra-group setting.
It is the question of using a more appropriate, less negative language for addressing different communities. Instead, on these forms, I believe we should modify the title of “visible minority” to something more general, like “more information about you.” This doesn’t put a label on someone and invites them to open up without feeling uncomfortable like their human condition has just been pre-determined (and reinforced constantly, for that matter).
In real life conversations, I think we should stop using “minority” and opt for “community.” Just insert the ethnic title in front of the word community. This will create a more positive space for verbal exchange.
Hopefully, by making these simple linguistic modifications, we can actually create a community, rather than reinforce a group of separated clans, and destroy the euro-centric, white-dominant image that impairs peoples’ behaviours to see each other for what they essentially are: unique human beings.