Starting Point: How do you spell "minority?"


This article originally appeared in Issue# 38

The most difficult part of preparing this issue was deciding what we meant by the word: minority. Given our basic media connection, would we cover racial minorities or ethnic minorities? Should we include other minority populations — the elderly? The differently-abled? What about the clichéd category: "women and minorities?"

Although all of these groups deserve analysis in terms of media portrayal and participation, space was limited. And so we decided to focus primarily on the four principal U.S. racial minorities: black, Latino, Asian and Native American with awareness that some ethnic groups — Arabs, Jews and others - share often in the media's bias and discrimination. Women, we agreed, would get their own future issue.

As a number of our authors point out, "minorities" are fast becoming the majority of our population. Nevertheless, each group has unique and special characteristics. So a second editorial challenge was deciding how to name and describe each subject group.

After much consultation, we determined that "black" (not capitalized) and "Asian" are common usage and accepted by those communities. "Native American" seems preferable to "Indian" although the interview with Talking Leaf editor Mike Burgess quotes his own terminology. And with Southern California possibly in the lead, the term "Latino" seems to be emerging as the inclusive term for all persons from countries as diverse as Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Naming oneself is an important step in controlling one's reality. But usage changes over time. Perhaps the more important word here is: awareness.

In the midst of finalizing this issue, I tuned in one night to the television broadcast of the NAACP's "Image" Awards. I was impressed with the way the black community honored its own for outstanding performances in a variety of media from film and television to music and drama. With a tone more of community pride than commercial competition, the show was far more interesting — and enjoyable — than the Oscars or the Emmys. In addition to future "Image" Awards, you might want to look for telecasts of the "Jimmie" Awards presented by the Association of Asian/Pacific American Artists or the "Golden Eagles" presented by Nosotros. I'll join you in the viewing audience.

If Media&Values gave an award right now, it would be to those national organizations that have made this issue possible with their generous support as co-sponsors. Many thanks to:

National Black Media Coalition o National Italian-American Media Institute o Institute for American Pluralism/American Jewish Committee Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart. Society of the Divine Word of Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. Josephite Fathers and Brothers Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn. Paulist Fathers. Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters. Sisters of St. Joseph/Orange, CA of Claretian Missionaries/Eastern Province Interreligious Affairs Department/American Jewish Committee o Office for Community and Ethnic Concerns/Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Author Bio: 

Elizabeth Thoman, a pioneering leader in the U.S. media literacy field, founded Media&Values magazine in 1977 and the Center for Media Literacy in 1989. She is a graduate of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and continues her leadership through this website, consulting, speaking and as a founding board member of the Alliance for a Media Literate America (AMLA).