Discrimination & minorities

Minorities are classes of people whose ethnic, cultural or other characteristics distinguish them from the rest of society. Examples include indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, religious groups, migrant workers, homeless people and the LGBTI community. Minorities are often disadvantaged in terms of their access to economic and political power, and many face other forms of discrimination and exploitation. They may also be scapegoated for broader social and economic problems,e.g., immigrants and ethnic minorities are often the first to be blamed for crime and unemployment.

Health, age, education, dress and class can also define minority groups, and may create minorities within minorities – for example, gays in the African American community. People with disabilities or a mental illness, the elderly, homeless and unemployed people are all likely to experience discrimination and can become ‘invisible’ and forgotten, ignored by the media and neglected by mainstream political parties.

The discrimination and antagonism that are directed towards minority groups arise partly from self-interest, partly from fear/ignorance, partly from a misguided sense of superiority or entitlement and partly from physical barriers to or lack of provision of appropriate services. These can be overcome only by recognising that regardless of difference, we all share a common humanity.

It is easy for the ‘mainstream’ to remain unaware of minorities’ situations. The following sites will help increase your own awareness; they also indicate some of the ways in which positive change can be achieved for some of the world’s most disadvantaged people.