Critically thinking about minority status.
We hear minority all the time. It has become one of those words that people say but do not really understand at the core. Like “Liberal”, “Communist”, etc. these words often have a standardized meaning you find in the dictionary, but can be used in various contexts with different connotation and meaning depending on who is speaking, to whom and most importantly, about whom.
So, let us begin with defining minority (As I use it)
- A minority is a group within a larger group. (I think we can agree on that).
- The minority group can be a numerical minority, meaning there are fewer of them than others in the group.
- The minority can be a power minority, meaning that as individuals or as a group, they have less power. Less power can mean less autonomy, democratic representation, ability to make decisions for themselves or the group, and less ability to move into the privileged group.
So what happens if we apply this standard definition to all of our groups within academia?
A Thought Experiment
I cannot do this part for you.
Think of your favorite minority (M).
In your mind you might choose “Asian-American”, “Black”, “Gender non-conforming”, “Latinx”, “Mentally Challenged”, “Native American”, “Puerto Ricans”, etc.
Now choose your favorite privileged group (P).
In your mind this may be “Males”, “Active Military”, “Rich folk”, “Mainlanders” etc.
These are all common examples of minorities and privileged groups in English-speaking, North American.
Now, substitute your favorite minority into the following statements and phrases. Replace the (M) with a minority and the (P) with a Privileged group. Extra points for publishing it to your social media feed.
- Even after paying for their tuition (M)___________________ have no legal right to be on campus.
- (P)___________________ should be allowed to work 22 hours a week. (M)__________________ should only be allowed to work 20 hours a week.
- Before (M)_________________ come to University, they should provide a bank statement to prove they can afford three years of tuition.
- (P)_________________ should pay less than (M)_________________ for education at our University.
- After arriving at our University, (M) _____________________ should submit to a blood test to ensure they do not have a communicable disease. If they do not submit to the test, they should be dropped from their classes.
- Our University should not hire (M)_________________ this year.
How did you do? Did your minority win? Did it feel good to say any of these things?
How angry would you be if that statement about your minority was an active policy on your campus?
Should you be upset if it is a different minority? No, seriously, go back and put all the other minorities you can think of on those lines.
Did you find the sweet spot? That minority you are okay with doing those things to? Ask your friends, find out where their line is.
Each of these is a redacted version of an active written policy that affects one group on campuses across the United States of America and much of the western world. Some of them were edited for length and content.
International students are members of your academic community. There are no laws that protect them as a minority group. No laws to protect them from policies that specifically target them. (I do love to be corrected though, so please do.)
I hope this allowed you to think about your policies and how they affect those around you. Say “hello” to an international scholar today. Ask how they are doing.
Go to your policy and information manual and search for international students. Check the disparities.
Love, Honor, Justice.