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Majority and Minority | Prejudice and Stereotype



Taken from Cartoonstock.com
In a very diverse and multicultural society, there exists what so called as majority and minority society. In one session of my short course in US (SUSI for Student Leaders on Religious Pluralism), I more profoundly studied this issue. ‘A miniature of the world’, in this way one of my friends called the United States of America. In this country, there are various people coming from different nations and cultures speaking different languages. Therefore, in US, as in many other plural places, the existence of majority group is observable.


Nowadays, the majority of US citizen is indisputable White people. They make up larger amount of US citizen. Other groups of people make up minority group. They consist of African American, Latin American, Asian American and others. Each possesses and preserves each own distinct culture. Thus, the concept of salad bowl is now more preferable rather than melting pot. In salad bowl, each member of the society still preserves its ‘form’. But in melting pot, they all blend, they all melt. The current phenomena in US society are not represented by the latter.



In understanding the concept of majority and minority, Dr. Racelle Weiman and Angela Ilic, who led the session, asked the participants to engage in an interactive teaching. The participants consisting of twenty Indonesian students shared the same commonalities: black hair and black eye color. They drew a circle on the floor and instructed the participants to step in after some instructions. “Step in the circle for people whose hair is black” said Dr. Racelle. Twenty people stepped in the circle, leaving the blonde Dr. Racelle and the somewhat red Angela Ilic. Which group is the majority now? When they asked the class to step inside a circle for those whose religion is non Moslem, six people (the two mentors and four participants) stepped in. Do you remember that the four students were once in the majority group? What did it suggest?


taken from muslimvillage.com
The concept of majority and minority is very much determined by two factors: space and time. Imagine the twenty students from Indonesia. They were the majority within the class room for having black hair (special factor). But once they get out, even if only one step, outside of the classroom, they would become the minority as most people in the campus area were blonde. Moslems were majority inside the classroom. Once the students got out of it, they became minority (special factor). Say, African American. Once they come to Africa they will not be minority (measured by skin color). All of these show that space play a crucial role in making up a majority group. It means that status as a majority is not an absolute status. Everyone may become or may not become majority member in a given space. Time also plays the same factor. It actually is an interlocking system with space in making up majority/minority status. It works in the same way as space does. For instance there is an interesting finding about American society. If the survey and calculation is correct, in the near future, White people will loose its status as majority people in US as the number of minority keeps on growing [1].


What happen to the majority group with the existence of a growing minority? The initial response of majority to minority is usually not the good ones. In most cases, majority is usually attributed with more power, more control and more privilege. They usually enjoy all of the privileges that minority group cannot afford to. For instance, the right to vote in US. Only in 1965 could all US citizens regardless their race and gender vote freely. The majority will react with mostly fear and anxiety to the growing number of minority. They fear that the minority will get all the privileges. They are anxious that the minority will take over and even overthrow them from their position in society. Thus, to prevent this from happening prejudice and stereotype are in force. Prejudice, what does it mean? Here are some definitions of prejudice from http://dictionary.reference.com :

n
1.an opinion formed beforehand, esp an unfavourable one based on inadequate facts
2.the act or condition of holding such opinions
3.intolerance of or dislike for people of a specific race, religion,etc
4.disadvantage or injury resulting from prejudice
5.to the prejudice of  to the detriment of
6.law without prejudice  without dismissing or detracting from anexisting right or claim


SUSI RPA class on majority and minority consequences 
The six definitions of prejudice refers to acts of forming negative pre-opinion to specific group of people based on race, religion, etc which has no adequate facts. Prejudice then may not be true since it has less fact. Which group of people who are mostly prejudiced? Surely, the minority one. The majority will have their prejudice on the minority and once these prejudices are perpetuated and believed by many people as something true, it becomes a stereotype and it is hardly combated.


Stereotypes are negative opinions to a certain group of people which are believed as true. The easiest example are women’s stereotype as weak. Are all women weak? Surely not. There are plenty strong women out there. Stereotypes are also characterized by generalization and it is perpetuated by media. More and more people believe in stereotypes of certain group of people because they are frequently embedded in the popular media. Media work in a specific unconscious ways to influence people. Thus, the minority group must work hard to combat stereotypes imposed on them, and it is not an easy fight. Do you believe in certain stereotypes of groups of people? 


So how can we combat the stereotypes or prejudice? Being a majority, one will always feel safe, secure and comfortable. S/he lives in a comfort zone that leads to ignorance to the others, the minority ones. However, if one really want to combat stereotypes and prejudice, s/he is supposed to leave her/his comfort zone. S/he needs to at least be open minded, let the ignorance evaporate, and learn about the others (qq).


References:
[1] The End of White America? http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/01/the-end-of-white-america/7208/; White people will not be majority by 2042 http://gulfnews.com/news/world/usa/white-people-will-not-be-a-majority-in-us-by-2042-1.124913

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