Pushing Against Liberal Imaginations: The Term “Minoritized”
I often use the term “minoritized” in reference to B/I/POC/women/queer folk/people with disabilities/immigrants/religious minorities and other like social groups/intersections because I find it helpful in naming how *power* functions in *institutions.* In the liberal imagination, when marginalized groups create the statistical majority in an institutional space social supremacies are resolved. So when there are more POC than White folk in power racism is solved under this frame. The term “minority” fits this understanding of power perfectly by denoting and connoting “numbers” and “statistics.” Pushing against this liberal imagination I (and others) contest that even if historically marginalized folks make up the statistical majority of an institution, the ideas, policies, and beliefs that actively continue marginalizing these communities don’t automatically change. Put differently, more “minorities” does not equal systems that empower and bring justice to marginalized communities. On the contrary, these *systems of power* continue privileging those historically in power and force historically marginalized people to acquiesce to them in order to ascertain power. The White House is the perfect example: even as we got a Black man in office (a member of a “minority” group) the policies, ideas, and beliefs of that office continued supporting war internationally, deportations domestically, and capitalism globally. Thus while we had a member of a “minority” group in an institution, the policies, ideas, and beliefs of that institution did not change and they continued actively marginalizing already marginalized communities (including the one the president emerged from). The term “minoritized” suggests, then, that institutions have explicit policies, ideas, and beliefs that sustain a certain configuration of power—all of which are historically constituted (i.e. we can trace them in history)—which are sustained even if demographics shift. The term “minoritized” also suggests that the way to end the marginalization of historically marginalized communities is *not* by placing them in positions of power but rather by re-configuring systems (policies, beliefs, and ideas) of power. If your board is completely run by POC but the policies they enforce keep communities of color in poverty did anything actually change? If your university has a female president but continues privileging adjunct labor over living wages did anything change? Representation is important, because representation often helps us imagine a new world. And placing historically marginalized people in positions of power often comes with a questioning of systems. But that’s no guarantee because these same systems domesticate. Representation without a reconfiguration of systems (following the work of Nancy Fraser, bell hooks, and others) merely changes the faces of power without changing how power actively marginalizes certain communities in order to give power and wealth to other communities.