Social Justice for the Public Sphere


All This Talk about Historically Underrepresented Groups . . . Who Are They? What Are They? Why Care?

Often times when I bring up the “talk” about diversity or multiculturalism I refer to historically underrepresented populations, not using the word minority. Some see historically underrepresented populations as a euphemism for minority, but I see them as two distinct classes. You see, the simplest definition of minority is the smaller part of a whole; but the way in which we use minority deals specifically with groups differing in race, religion, or ethnic backgrounds as opposed to the majority of a population. Essentially they are components of our identity that some may see as “less than” the majority. This notion holds a negative connotation which some may perceive as an incapability, inferiority, and “inequity”. Now, some say that whenever words hold negative connotations the victims of these words tend to either change or try to reappropriate the word, which is definitely true. Some examples include the reappropriation of pejorative epithets such as F****t and N****r and its derivatives and also the constant language we change pertaining to those with disabilities/different abilities. You can see some of it in the language I am using. So in essence to use historically underrepresented seems to be nothing more than euphemistic or word appropriation, but I draw the difference in that for some, historically underrepresented challenges the notion of societal and political inequity. Berkeley, suggests historically underrepresented, “is a limited term that refers to groups who have been denied access and/or suffered past institutional discrimination in the United States.”

In my eyes, historically underrepresented does represent the “small and few” in a population but does not hold the same negative connotation as minority; historically underrepresented groups do not hold an incapacity or incapability; they are simply misrepresented in certain societal and political aspects such as education, jobs, housing, etc., resulting in marginalization for some groups and individuals and not for others, relative to the number of individuals who are members of the population involved (Berkeley). This goes beyond race and ethnicity but encompasses all underrepresented identities such as those who identify within the LGBTQ community, those with disabilities, those who represent different religious groups; and those with varying socio-economic backgrounds, amongst other identities.

To reiterate, historically underrepresented is a collective group of identities that challenges political and societal inequity. Its representation asks society to assay the unfairness in society and to challenge the concept of tolerance versus acceptance; to challenge the ethnocentric appeals which can be a threat to the continued diversity of our nation. Moreover, understanding and acknowledging historic underrepresentation challenges the majority to understand and acknowledge equality, diversity, and inclusion; collectively the concept of multiculturalism.

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  1. I appreciated how you differentiated between the phrase “historically underrepresented populations” and the word “minority.” There are certainly underrepresented groups in our society today that are struggling with same the issues that historically underrepresented groups experienced. I believe this is especially true in terms of civil rights and discrimination. This issue is timely as the Supreme Court is currently hearing cases on gay marriage, which is sparking a lot of heated debate so the topic. I would agree that individuals who associate with the identities that you listed, such as the LGBTQ community, often do feel underrepresented in different aspects of our society.

    You did a great job of explaining the terms and giving examples, but I am curious to see if you could elaborate on the last last question you raised in your blog title: “why care?”

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