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minority group

minority group Since the 1930s this term has been applied to social groups that are oppressed or stigmatized on the basis of racial, ethnic, biological, or other characteristics. Louis Wirth, for example, defines a minority group as ‘a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination’. However, seen in these terms, a minority group could in fact constitute a numerical majority in any society–for example Blacks in South Africa. It might be more useful, therefore, to distinguish between groups which are actually a minority in numbers and those which are marginal in terms of their access to power. The study of minorities has recently been linked to the study of deviance, exclusion, labelling, stigma, racism, the authoritarian personality, homophobia, and sexism (all of which are given separate entries in this dictionary). See also MARGINALIZATION.

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