Skip to content

Randall L. Kennedy, The Word 'Minority' Isn't Pejorative, Boston Globe, Jan. 8, 2002.

Abstract: The Boston City Council voted in December without dissent in favor of an ordinance that would have banned the use of the word “minority” from official city documents. City Council President Charles Yancey justified the ordinance on the grounds that the offending term "implies inferiority and inequity among Americans," that growing numbers of people within racial "minority" groups object to the word, and that the term is inaccurate, at least in Boston where blacks, Asians, and Hispanics now constitute the majority of the city population. The term [minority] is anachronistic and demeaning," Yancey is reported to have asserted. Another motivation is a desire to reject customs of identification that are designed to insult. Until the 1930s, even major newspapers and the United States Government Printing Office federal spelled "Negro" with a small "n" in deference to racial mores that minimized the social status of Negro Americans. Not until 1963 did the Board on Geographic Names remove "nigger" from federal government maps that previously bore such place names as Nigger Lake, Niggerhead Hill, and Old Nigger Creek. Contrary to what has been asserted by champions of this dubious linguistic reform, there is little evidence that substantial numbers of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latino-Americans, white Americans or any other sort of Americans object to the term. In August a news report in this newspaper asserted that the term "minority" is encountering "a growing chorus of criticism across the country."