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Racialytics #2: Invisible Majority

Racialytics #2:  Invisible Majority

This post is being written by a “visible minority”.  (Well, this is true of all the posts on this blog, since it’s mine, but bear with me.)  According to Statistics Canada, “visible minority”

…refers to whether a person belongs to a visible minority group as defined by the Employment Equity Act and, if so, the visible minority group to which the person belongs. The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour”. The visible minority population consists mainly of the following groups: Chinese, South Asian, Black, Arab, West Asian, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Latin American, Japanese and Korean.

There are multiple things about this definition that I find problematic, but I’ll save that discussion for a future post.  What I want to focus on right is that everybody understands that “minority” = “exists in fewer numbers than our ‘Caucasian in race, white in colour’, compatriots”.   This fact is never made explicit, because it doesn’t need to be.

Or, doesn’t it?

Over the years, I’ve noticed that as the number of “dark skinned” Canadians increases, so too does the number of media reports about how there will come a time when visible minorities will make up the majority of the population. (In Toronto, that time is pretty much now.)  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen and heard the phrase, “visible minorities will make up the majority of the population”.  I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for someone – anyone – to say, “Hey, wait a sec… If visible minorities are going to be the majority of the population, then wouldn’t that make them visible majorities?”  Sadly, however, no one ever has.  Here’s why:  it is implicitly understood that “minority” is not about numbers.  Or, rather, it’s not just about numbers.

It’s also about power.

It’s about the power to determine the dominant rules, customs, values, styles, languages, aesthetics, cultural practices, laws, foods, religions, and relationships of a given society.  More importantly, it’s about the power to remain invisible while doing so.  “Invisible” means that all those rules, customs, values, etc. appear natural and normal, so people think that that’s just how everyone does things, rather than just how a specific group of people does things.

The problem is, when you’re part of the “invisible majority”, you have to devote a lot of time and energy to remaining invisible.  You have to make sure that you stay in the majority – by ensuring that your history, science, literature, philosophy, etc. are the only subjects taught in the school system; that your people are the only ones who get to rise to positions of importance; that your stories are the only ones told in books and movies; that your language is only spoken in accents that are easy for you to understand; that your preferences are the only ones worth having; that your choices are the only ones worth making; that your skills and abilities are the only ones worth having; that your successes are due to merit, and merit only – without making it look like that’s what you’re doing.  And even if you aren’t directly responsible for all this, you still have to make sure never to question why your people behave this way, as well as make anyone who does question it feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.

That’s got to be exhausting.

So, as someone who will soon bear the burden of being a invisible majority, let me suggest that you take a break.  Chill out.  Relax.  Let us look after things for a while.  After all, we’ve been taking care of you in one way or another for years.  So, don’t worry.

We got this.

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