Academic journal article Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

The Clinical Irrelevance and Scientific Invalidity of the "Minority" Notion: Deleting It from the Social Science Vocabulary

Academic journal article Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

The Clinical Irrelevance and Scientific Invalidity of the "Minority" Notion: Deleting It from the Social Science Vocabulary

Article excerpt

A systematic socio-linguistic and historical analysis of the minority label reveals its multiple irregularities and imperfections. These encompass a misleading array of vastly dissimilar nationality or group designations and the erroneous comparison of behaviors and life styles with racial status. As it is currently applied in U.S. political culture and in a variety of disciplines including sociology and social work, the concept has virtually no substantive meaning nor reality-linked usefulness. A thorough appraisal of the consequences of the perpetual reliance on the notion demonstrates that it eradicates ethnic cultural diversity and ignores historical antecedents and the "lived" experiences of oppressed racial populations.

In fact, the politically framed designation has no psychological nor social significance for targeted racial/ethnic groups. Rather, it comprises "politically correct" language and functions solely for those who seek to equate behavior and conditions with race or ethnic status. Yet, objective examinations clearly show that the word is lacking in definitive dimensions and fails to reference any of the standard rules for logical concept formation and category construction. A thorough knowledge of social science methodology and U.S. history provides insights into the theoretical and research limitations of the minority tool. Thus, in clinical and social science vocabularies, there is an urgent need to disconnect behavior from race for the two are not equal on any criteria. It is simply axiomatic that behavioral frames of reference are completely distinct from race paradigms. The chronic insistence on placing racial groups under the minority label constitutes an unusual preoccupation with purposefully defining "the other" without their consent.


I have been most pleased with the extraordinarily positive response to my thoroughly researched and objective analysis in "Rethinking the Concept of `Minority': A Task for Social Scientists and Practitioners." In this follow-up to that milestone article, several interrelated aims are presented. These are (1) to reinforce the fundamental premises introduced in the initial explanation of the deficiencies typifying the minority category, (2) to present the voices of African American scholars and others on the topic of the scientific shortcomings, social policy limitations and clinical meaninglessness of the currently framed minority construct, 3) to re-assert the humanistic need and right of persons of African, Hispanic, American Indian, and other racial/ethnic descent to contextualize and define their own identities without vexing intervention by those who are either members of or who identity with the privileged racial and numerical majority, (4) to introduce a set of valuable references for those who are neither knowledgeable about U.S. history, especially slavery, nor have experienced "Jim Crowism," nor encountered continuing racial discrimination and segregation and the prevailing significance of race (Wilkinson, 1999a), and (5) to support the rational movement to eradicate the use of the all-encompassing minority fallacy that virtually undercuts the unique histories, experiences, and daily dehumanizing encounters of specific racial and ethnic populations in the United States (Butler, 2001; Butler, 1993; Turner, 2000; Strickland, 1979; Wilkinson, 1987). "Umbrella labels do harm when they lump into a single term a variety of diverse people with different problems" (Gans, 1998: 101).

Deficiencies in the Minority Construction

In the spring of 2000, my comprehensive review of the "minority concept" was introduced to the readers of the Journal of Sociology and Social Work. In that carefully researched critical appraisal, several fundamental points with regard to its misuse were outlined. One of the guiding themes of my conceptual analysis is reflected in Randall Robinson's observation that "in America, whites have caused all Americans to read, see, hear, learn and select from a diet of their own ideas with few others placed to make suggestions . …

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