General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

How should people of a minority group act?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25799 points ) February 25th, 2014

Should minorities be obsequious to the societal majority? Should they open their lives to prurient observation by the majority?

Or should minorities live openly and with pride in themselves? Should they act with resistance to manipulation by the majority?

Should minorities acquiesce or fight?

The topics are often edited by site moderators without the consent of the OP, so I’ll list my topics for this question here: minority rights, life, society, tyranny of the majority.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

36 Answers

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

I think you have your nose out of joint, and I’m sorry you feel that way. I think sometimes people get all wrapped up in calling themselves a minority, and forget that everybody has crappy days, and nearly everyone I ever met could be included as this minority or another.
I think minorities should act like members of the human race, respect others, and themselves. If a problem comes along, it should be someboy else’s fault. That’s how I feel everyone should behave.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Jonesn4burgers How does commenting about me personally answer this question? And you are wrong. There really are majorities in societies, and there really are others who are not part of that group. Just ask an African American or someone who’s not Christian like a Jewish person. They’ll readily tell you they are not part of the majority. Better yet. Please, ask a LGBT person in Uganda what it’s like to be in the minority.

JLeslie's avatar

I have mixed feelings on this. I’m not sure exactly what you are interested in, but I’ll take a shot at it.

I think conforming or assimilating personally behooves and benefits the individual. Even people in the majority are doing things to conform that they may not like. One day a black man was telling me how he didn’t want to have to wear a suit and tie. He said it was white men who decided that was appropriate attire. What does he think? All white men wake up and are excited about putting on a suit? A whole bunch of white people would love to wear jeans and a polo shirt to work. Since he saw it as the majority as the ruling class he wanted to reject all their rules. The thing is, if we want to rise into the ruling class the path of least resistance is to conform. Once you are there, then you can begin to change the system or set some of your own rules. I think this mostly applies to business, Being at work, on our free time we can do whatever we want.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who comment on how minorities act. Actions are what is focused on, not what makes them a minority. The minorities I have worked with, I can’t think of one time they were treated badly or unfairly because they were gay, black, Hispanic, Persian, or another nationality while at work. Maybe it did happen, I assume there has to be one example, but I never saw or heard of one. I worked in retail and I didn’t see it from management, coworkers or customers. However, everyone conformed. They dressed appropriately, they spoke English well, although sometimes with an accent, they behaved within what is expected for that business.

My husband, who is Hispanic, and everyone knows when they meet him he is from somewhere, not born in the US, never has his minority status come into play as far as we can tell. He will conform without complaint to whatever is expected. When he had long hair and was going to interview for a VP position at a bank, he asked if he should cut his hair. He had been wearing khakis and polo shirts to work, but he changed over to suits for his banking job. He has the appropriate demeaner and attitude for the executive level and honestly I never did, and I am the native born white American.

I primarily gave work examples. In social circumstances people tend to group with people that have things in common. Groups tend to have their own uniforms too. It’s just a reality. Sometimes education, wealth, career, or status trumps the uniform. Command of the English language matters too. Not accent, but decent grammar. People who speak English as a second language get exceptions, but if you were born and raised in America you don’t. Attitude also. If a minority always feels like the world is against them and that comes out all the time, people generally don’t want to hear it, especially if the person is not conforming.

I love diversity. I’m so happy to be back in a diverse place, hearing many different languages around me. I lived in Memphis as you know and the divide between black people and white people was present. I am so happy that I don’t feel that at all where I live now. I see biracial couples all the time. I don’t feel any cultural divide with anyone, black, Greek (there are a lot of Greeks here) gay, Arab, nothing. One big melting pot and I see everyone friends with everyone. In Memphis people worked together, but socially they didn’t intermix much at all.

I’m not sure I answered your question.

flutherother's avatar

I think the key word here is respect. Minorities should respect majority opinion and the majority should also respect the views of the minority. Talk of resistance and fighting is confrontational and isn’t going to do anyone any good. Mutual respect is what is required and that begins with respect for yourself and who you are.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I lived in Asia for a number of years. It was immediately obvious I was a minority. Knowing that I would be seen as a minority and will be a representative of my race, I made some internal rules
– Always behave in a respectful manner.
– Know the expected stereotype and do not behave that way.
– Dress equal to or slightly better.
– No drinking or eating in public.
– Do not disturb others by making noise or loud talking in a foreign language.
– Always hold and behave to a higher standard than the group
– Consider myself an ambassador for my group.

JLeslie's avatar

@LuckyGuy Was it hard to do? Did you feel stifled?

Response moderated
LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie No. It was not hard. I walked straight and proud. Americans were stereotyped as being fat, lazy and greasy from eating so much meat. I did everything I could to prove them wrong. Even when I was exhausted I would never show it. I would force myself to not be out of breath. I’d smile. My clothes were clean. I just did it.
And the effort made me a better person.

Cruiser's avatar

Ideally they should not “act”, they should just be themselves…and anyone that unwittingly finds themselves singled out as being in the majority should also just be themselves. Live a morally sound life with law abiding principals and be kind to your fellow man. To each his own should be the operative of life in today’s society but sadly it is not.

What is ironic the people who are sympathetic and empathetic towards other minorities are themselves often a minority within their own “majority” and often are an even smaller minority.

Not to single out the GLBT minority but it was the first quote I could find on this dynamic….

For example, studies (mainly conducted in the United States) have found that heterosexuals with positive attitudes towards homosexuality are more likely to be _female, white, young, non-religious, well-educated, politically liberal or moderate, and have close personal contact with out homosexuals.

A the risk of over simplifying…..problems or conflicts between minorities and majorities are when prejudices surface and fear takes over. Fears that any interaction with this minority will somehow directly affect their quality of life and in some cases their moral fabric of their lives. Same thing where a minority somehow feels unwelcome in this majority world they find themselves. The real problems arise and are perpetuated when extremists on both side of the equation make their fears widely know through confrontation and public discourse of various forms and degrees.

Republicans are demonized by wingnuts in their party and as a whole often look selfish and greedy when the reality so far from that “truth”. The same kind of example can be applied to any minority and of course even within the majorities.

I learned after months of therapy after my first divorce that arguments occur because on side or the other or both are misinformed or misunderstanding of one or more elements that initiated the argument. Most arguments are solved with one or the other admitting I was wrong and I see your point or a bloody fistfight ensures and nothing gets solved and the problem made worse.

We live in a civilized society but with all these conflicts between minorities and majorities and the actions and behaviors on both sides…there is ample evidence to show that we don’t.

To answer the question…we should “act” to educate ourselves better so we can alleviate any fears we have towards a minority or a majority so we can someday live in a civil and tolerant society that all can enjoy in peace.

DaphneT's avatar

Live with pride and dignity, be prepared to repetitively explain that diversity is good for all cultures, lost cultures are lost forever, extinction makes us smaller not stronger, and how boring repetition can be.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Be your authentic self and if society doesn’t like it, tough.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser I agree that communication and getting to know each other helps. It is easy to dislike someone or a group you don’t know, especially if you hear negative things about them from others. I agree sometimes it is about fear, but sometimes it has nothing to do with fear, it has to do with annoyance. That group is annoying, or so dissimilar that they don’t mesh well culturally with another group. Much like doing in Roma as the Romans do and avoiding doing things that the Romans see as uncouth or rude. @LuckyGuy gave examples that would not really be about Asians being afraid of him, it had to do with respecting their culture and understanding how they perceive the American culture.

@KNOWITALL What if your authentic self is a man who likes to wear skirts and wants to be a lawyer who litigates? The courts aren’t going to be ok with men in skirts most likely. There are societal rules and expectations we all have to deal with. Insisting hisself and aks are words isn’t going to help that person get promoted to an executive level in a corporation. It depends what the person wants, what group they want to be accepted by.

Cruiser's avatar

@JLeslie Any example of an annoyance you can give me associated with a minority and I will show you a fear and ignorance driving that annoyance and it boils down to that fear of that “annoying” minority or majority for that matter, affecting that persons “idealized” lifestyle they so covet and want to preserve and protect.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie You are correct. I was in Japan a number of years ago when, for the most part, the only Americans they saw in real life were in the military. To be quite frank they were not always the best representatives of “American culture”.
I did my small part to change their attitude.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

Really, @Hawaii_Jake, I’m wrong? I am a white woman. I was raised in a rural community where minority was redheads. Our school brought a social worker from another county so we could see someone of color in person, talk, ask questions. When I joined the Navy, I was a minority for sure. There were men who DID NOT WANT WOMEN IN THEIR MEN’S CLUB. There were attempts to harm myself and other women. I did the very best job I could. I was a deck ape, and lots of physical labor was expected of me. I met those challenges, and I shone above most men doing the same work. I ended up having a CPO requesting me to be on his team. He was a black man, nearing retirement. He knew some struggles of his own, and he gave me the opportunity to be a good sailor without the constant threat of harm.
After I left the Navy, I worked in a large city in a small business setting. The business was divided, all employees were black, or Jewish. I went to work every day, did my best, went home exhausted. One day I stopped, and was staring into space before me. I was suddenly aware of some eyes burning through my back. When I turned, there was my manager, watching me. He asked if I was okay. I told him it just occurred to me I was the minority, and I was mulling it over. Every guy in the room stopped working that moment and looked at me. One guy asked me how it felt. I said it didn’t feel special, but it didn’t feel bad, it was just something I’d suddenly thought about. One of the guys went to the radio, and started turning the dial. He asked me what was my favorite radio station. I told him, and he found it. It was NOT their cup of tea, but one hour each day, they switched over to my fave.
Everyone IS one minority or another, woman, black, gay, hispanic, cancer survivor, nerd, geek, bi polar, color blind, parapalegic, Asian, gawd I could go on.
If everyone could do like those guys did, and just think about how it feels to be included and left out, more people would remember they are not the only minority, and try to make all their neighbors feel more included.
My first answer above was not a personal attack, and your reaction to it is further proof you have a chip on your shoulder. I began with a personal observation, derived from things you,ve stated in various posts. I went on from that, though, and answered your question. I had meant to keep it short, but apparently a longer post was in order to fully present my thoughts on the subject.

Cruiser's avatar

@Jonesn4burgers GA +6 I know exactly how you feel and totally agree with your comment about everyone in some way is in the minority. I am by all appearances in the majority but there were 4 years of my life where it was acutely obvious I wasn’t. Being Catholic in a 97% Jewish School clearly put me in the minority there and the sad part was many went out of their way to let me know this. Being called a Nazi and having Swastikas drawn on my locker sent a clear message of how prejudices are passed down through the generations. I had never met a Jewish person before I moved from the city to this suburb and I look back in amazement in how their hatred of my heritage caused me to be on the defensive and even brewed a similar discontent of their Jewish heritage. It was short lived as I met a girl, fell in love with and married her despite her being Jewish.

Since those days I have worked my ass off and now once again find myself in another minority….the 1% and the automatic vitriol, contempt and even hatred of being in the 1% equals, in some cases exceeds the contempt and hatred I experienced simply for being of German descent.

In both cases I did nothing wrong to earn or deserve any hatred or contempt…just guilty by association. I am a decent hardworking man who honors and respects all others for who they are…and would never color my impression of any person because of any minority they might be associated with unless they get in my face over it. Then you will have a fight on your hands.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser What you experienced in school is not what I am talking about. They were horrible to you for your German descent, just for being born German (which of course is even more disgusting that Jews did that to you considering we should be the most empathetic to not wanting to be hated for something we are born with) I am talking about how people act, speak, and dress. It isn’t that acting one way is better than another, it is simply cultural differences and expectations. My point with my first answer was a person needs to behave within reason like the group they want to fit in with, otherwise they have an uphill climb. Some people don’t care about fitting in anywhere and that’s fine.

dxs's avatar

They shouldn’t act any different than anyone else. They’re just not the “majority”. And nobody should single someone out because of their minority status. That being said, they’re still important, so if the minority is not being considered, then everyone (not just the minorities) should take a stand to promote justice.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie How many of us stifle who we are to appease our bosses, co-workers, families, etc…?
Life is a compromise for most of us when it comes to portraying ourselves to our coworkers and clients, etc…, but the LGBT’s I’ve been around, or know, living openly as a transgender in a relationship, or being in a lesbian marriage with a daughter, is worth the stares or whispers, threats or whatever. Happiness is worth fighting for.

DominicX's avatar

Most people seem to be responding to this with a “be yourself” message or “everyone is a minority” message, but it’s interesting that the OP addressed a different issue that no one seems to be touching on, i.e. this idea of “observation” of a minority by the majority. This post was inspired by numerous posts on homosexuality and the way people scrutinize it and study homosexuals and theorize about it, despite not being homosexual themselves. It’s easy for a majority to do that to a minority, probably a little harder the other way around.

I’m sure this happened a lot in the late 19th century. I can just see it. “Case study: Is the Negro man of inferior mind?” These studies and observations and manipulations can certainly feel dehumanizing sometimes and I know what it feels like to feel dehumanized when people are theorizing and speculating about what gets me sexually aroused and why…I’m not saying that no one should be curious, even I get interested in the origins of homosexuality sometimes. But there is a line that can be crossed where it gets to be a little much and we aren’t just “a gay”, we’re human like anyone else.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@DominicX I’m not sure what your point is with that post, but it feels like chastisment.
I don’t even care about your sexual arousal or practices or anything about the physical side of things, but I do care if you’re treated like a human, Dom.

DominicX's avatar

@KNOWITALL The point is what the OP said. Read the original post again. “Should they open their lives to prurient observation by the majority?” And I am not targeting any specific person, but only those who do sometimes engage in dehumanizing behavior toward minority groups. Maybe I’m totally off and that’s not what OP meant at all, but that’s what it sounded like to me.

Cruiser's avatar

@JLeslie Just to be clear I was specifially directing my comments to @Jonesn4burgers comments.

That said you brought up how people act…I don’t act German…I may look German but I don’t act like a German….I am an American but that didn’t insulate me from hateful mean comments that I experienced. I did my best to “fit in” and in fact was expert at it. I have the skill set of a Chameleon to be able to fit in and merely consider that a survival skill. From the rough and tumbles streets of Chicago where I had to fit in with the Catholic School kids, then transferred into Chicago Public schools where learning to assimilate and fit in with kids not in a school uniform was difficult, then moving to the suburbs where most kids were Jewish and I was singled out. I wasn’t even allowed to enter some kids homes because I wasn’t Jewish. Had I had Swastikas drawn on folders and Goose Stepped down the hall then of course I would deserve the attention I craved by doing so but I didn’t. I did my best to hide the fact I was German and because of my full name was impossible to do.

You and others here have pointed out that a lot of the stereo typing that is generated of a minority is very often because of the extreme fringe elements that help to create those stereotypes and perpetuate this “annoyance” you pointed out and bring unwarranted attention to that minority. Unfortunately there are those in the majority who fail to rise above the annoyance and instead choose to confront and engage anyone else in that minority and further stereotype that majority into something it really does not represent.

JLeslie's avatar

Are we discussing gay people or minorities in general? I don’t think anyone should have to hide anything. Gay people should be able to introduce their SO to their friends and coworkers without fear. I know that is not always the case, and I think that is wrong when gay people have to hide their life, plain and simple. Black people can’t hide their skin color, Jewish people should not have to worry about people knowing they are Jewish, same with Muslims and any other group. I am only talking about behavior, and I am not talking about homosexual behavior in the bedroom, I mean behavior in public. Simple things like the ones @LuckyGuy mentioned about living in Asia.

Transvestites have it tougher I guess, because one of the very things I named about conforming was dress, and that is the very thing that helps them feel they are being themselves. I am not in the mind of transvestites, so I would not dare speak for them, I am just acknowledging there might be difficulty there. Still, no one should be mistreating anyone ever. But, not conforming has some consequenses in that there is a risk of people prejudging or not feeling a connection, a rapport, with someone who is very different. Very different varies for different people. I think of it more about having things in common and being comfortable around each other. I don’t judge people by how they look unless they are extremely dirty then I am uncomfortable, but even then I know there might be a very interesting person in there.

I definitely don’t care about their sexual orientation or what country they are from or their religion or their race. But, if they behave like their race in a way that agrees with negative stereotypes then it is what it is. It might feel normal among your own, but it is not normal among people outside of your race, ethnicity, whatever it is.

We don’t all have to be identical robots, how boring that would be, I am not saying that.

Cruiser's avatar

@DominicX I understand and appreciate your interesting angle in your answer, but the OP was pretty specific in asking how a minority should act when caught in the middle of a majority and think most if not all answers center around that.

Now had the OP asked how should a majority better observe or even interact with a minority as you suggest my comments would have addressed that.

DominicX's avatar

@Cruiser Again, I’m not criticizing people who answered the question in that way, I was just focusing on some of the things the OP mentioned in the details, i.e. that which had not been addressed yet.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@DominicX Cool. No, I think you’re correct, as that’s how I interpreted it as well.

Someone in my family was slightly homophobic (typical for my area), not to the point of being aggressive but maybe disparaging about certain situations or people I know. Once that person was exposed to the reality of a homosexual man discussing it with him openly, he began to amp down the comments and really liked the guy.

All I’m saying is that sometimes, exposing yourself emotionally to people who want to hurt you or who don’t understand you, can be part of the cure. In a safe way of course!

Like former slaves detailing the horrors of slavery made them human to people who had no idea what it was like, because you know it’s easier to pretend something doesn’t exist than to face reality and be forced to take action or change the way you think.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Jonesn4burgers I believe your second post proves my point that there is a majority that demands conformity. You mentioned you are white and from a small town. I would point out that you have the luxury of going to places where you are accepted as part of the majority. Other people do not enjoy being able to lay down their minority status. I am not intending to be confrontational.

@DominicX You are a nuanced reader. Thank you very much for your contribution to this thread.

dxs's avatar

@DominicX When I think about sexuality, I look at sexuality itself, and that’s all. I hope that was clear in my other posts. The difference in sexualities among people and why they are the way they are is what interests me, not just one extreme, such as homosexuality and heterosexuality. Frankly, I don’t care what sexual attraction one has. I’m not looking to justify it, just investigate it. I think the original question was worded with a bias as well. It was too specific.
And I agree: nouns don’t describe, adjectives do.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@dxs I see people, not sexuality, I could care less what anyone does in the bedroom really. From what I’ve seen in my area, homophobes get this mental picture that they can’t handle mentally.

Cruiser's avatar

@DominicX My appologies…I completely missed that part of the question about observation and glad you brought it up!

bea2345's avatar

My view is simple: it is expressed in the quote attributed to Mrs. Patrick Campbell. ”...so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses!” It is not a particularly liberal view – in fact it barely qualifies as toleration. Nevertheless, it does put the onus on the majority to be non-discriminatory towards minorities. The quote relates to behaviour, but could, with slight alteration, apply to physical traits such as gender or pigmentation. My conclusion is this: conformity to the majority view enables us to live together in (relative) peace.

To answer @Hawaii_Jake, conformity goes only so far, Given the open society we have in the West, homophobia is counter-intuitive and may even be immoral. What with the internet, the news media and communication devices of every kind, nothing of human behaviour is hidden. If only a fraction of what appears in the media is true, human conduct is as various and as bizarre as it ever was.

dxs's avatar

@KNOWITALL Are you opposing what I am saying? To clarify if it’s needed, I am interested in why and how people come to be, not what they are and what they do in bed. I’m not going around interviewing people about their sexuality, as that’s none of my business.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@dxs Not at all. :)
Since I live in a homophobic rural area and have LGBT friends, I’ve made a study on what works and doesn’t as far as dispelling the fears of the unknown or different, that seems to breed some homophobia.

Most of my friends are guys, and I hear a lot of homophobic comments, then when I call them out they get all sheepish and it just bothers me, because most of them are really good guys with big hearts.

LornaLove's avatar

Unfortunately majorities often hold the power. Ironically though there are unique situations where minorities hold the power. South Africa pre apartheid is a good example. If you are faced with a reality like that then it surely stands to reason that minorities should fight for who they are.

Fight is not a great approach though. Education is. Ignorance is not serving either side.

Should they be able to comment on our lives? No, who gives a shit what ‘they’ think for starters, but it is often leaders who show people how to be and think, by attraction, rather than promotion.

When majority rules it is not by manipulation but force. So I’d say be proud of who you are, fight for causes that hurt basic rights and then tell the rest to p*ss off.

Paradox25's avatar

Should minorities be obsequious to the societal majority? This question is too vague, because anybody can be a minority, including (but not limited to) a KKK member, a war protestor, a person practicing an unpopular religion or an LGBT person. I can only answer by stating that it depends upon the circumstances.

In my opinion though, and I’ll use the example that is important to many on here, LGBT issues, that no you shouldn’t. We can pretend and fool others, or conform in a politically correct way, but we can’t fool ourselves. If you’re comfortable with knowing the type of person you are then there’s simply no way you can be obsequious if the majority disapproves of the behavior in question here. In fact this would be the worst thing you could do, not only to yourself, but for the cause in general.

Should they open their lives to prurient observation by the majority? Or should minorities live openly and with pride in themselves? I’m confused here because both of these questions appear to be supporting the same concept, being that one has little problem of being open and observed by others. You can’t be open to prurient observation by others if you’re not open enough with your lifestyle to begin with.

The issue of ‘pride’ isn’t fitting here though, and I would say the same thing to a straight couple who’s open with their lifestyle, though I realize the circumstances are different for one group when compared to the other. Outside of helping others or personal acheivements I’m not the biggest fan of pride on any level, even to a limited extent in the latter cases, let alone for the way I live my life. A better response to pride to me would be ‘not ashamed’. There’s a big difference between the two.

Should minorities acquiesce or fight? I hope you can appreciate a different type of response here from another take you don’t see often on here. There’s a difference between minority and oppression. You can be a minority and not be oppressed. You can be oppressed even being part of the majority doing the oppressing too in my opinion, especially when that person themselves is not in tune with the majority view. Being kept from doing something can be a form of oppression, but so can being forced to do something. I use this same concept as Warren Farrell does in his book ‘The Myth of Male Privilege’, but that is for another topic. I only brought the latter point up because my definition of oppression needed to be addressed.

I also don’t view many LGBT issues as that, but as more straightforward gender issue. Many gay MRA’s agree with me on this point too. The fact is that it’s gay men who suffer much more disrespect, ridicule and violence vs lesbians. I’m not saying that the latter group is not without its own problems, but it is so overwhelmingly a male more than a female problem. I had a gay brother, a gay uncle, a gay cousin and some gay friends. I also have known many lesbians too so I think I know what I’m talking about. It is not common, but not rare, even in my small conservative area to see many openly lesbian couples, however, I’m yet to see openly gay men walking down the street. I know many gay bashers who love lesbians, and don’t give them the same harsh treatment.

I also have the privilege of directly communicating online on other sites with gay men from Muslim countries, and they too verify my points here. The problem here is that we only hear what the politically correct left or right leaning media outlets or politically correct elitists tell us. I really do feel that in order for our society to truly transform the way it views LGBT issues we need to eliminate the disposable way men are treated in most cultures, and address this on the same level of importance as other issues.

When the latter scenerio occurs the politically correct elite simply try to turn this issue into a more politically correct one. I think if the issue of male disposability starts to get taken more seriously then everything else would start to fall into place, and for the better, but many progressives want to do the opposite in my opinion in order not to sound politically incorrect towards sensitive factions within their own movements.

To be fair here I also blame many MRAs too, and white knight types for creating these hardships for their own sex to begin with, then complaining about these without showing too much enthusiasm for tearing apart the entire foundation causing these problems. I had to state all of this in order to answer the last part of your question here. My answer to the last part of your question here is to fight, but perhaps in a different way while considering what I’d said here.

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