Most likely, upon reading the title of this article, you naturally assumed that I am a member of the ethnic minority, perhaps African-American or Hispanic. Quite contrary, I am a Caucasian female.
In almost all of my endeavors until this point, I have been a part of the majority. The thought of one day being “the minority” had never entered my mind. That is, until I became just that.
I work at multicultural marketing, advertising and public relations agency in Little Rock, Ark. I am the one-and-only Caucasian female at the agency, and being such has certainly proved to be a very interesting, and at moments challenging, experience. Like the saying goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” I had never known or even thought about what life must be like without the comfort found in being in the majority.
As unique an experience being the minority has been, it is, on some level, preparing me for the future when the term “minority” itself will be obsolete.
The U.S. Census Bureau has stated that by 2050, people of color will comprise half of the total U.S. population. My place of employment is simply a mirror of the future of the United States.
I see the experience of being the minority as an amazing opportunity to put my foot in the shoe that so many people in America wear every day of their lives, both on a personal and consumer-based level. I have gained invaluable insight, at least on some level, into what it is like to be a minority.
I started my job expecting that being the only Caucasian female would be no different than any other situation I had been in. I was wrong.
I must admit that at first, I did feel a little uncomfortable. Starting a new job is always awkward, but being different from everyone else made my entry into my new position seem even more daunting.
My uneasiness was quickly relieved by the welcoming smiles and easy conversation of my co-workers. I am blessed to work with such great people, but I cannot help but think of how it must feel to be a minority thrust into a less welcoming environment.
That is a situation experienced quite often by minority groups in the United States. Underrepresented and often misunderstood, ethnic minorities are faced with feelings of that “first day” every day.
Comprehending that fact is the first step in beginning to understand what it is like to be the minority. I guess I should get used to this feeling, according to population projections.
You, and your business, should get used to it, too. In fact, we should embrace the learning opportunities being the minority can offer, which can increase our understanding and simultaneously increase revenue. A better understanding of minority groups leads to better communications with those groups that have continuously climbing buying power, and continuously climbing numbers in the United States.
With a new year dawning, gaining a better understanding of minority groups should be at the top of your business’ to-do list. Below are a few exercises to help you on your path to discovering what it is like to be the minority.
1. Put yourself in a situation in which you are the minority. This might mean that you are the only Caucasian at a social gathering, or that you are the youngest person at a business function. Discover what it feels like to truly be the minority, and write out the thoughts and feelings you experience. Use this experience as a guide for communicating with minority groups in the future.
2. Do your research. The information is there, so take the time to use the resources, both primary and secondary, that are readily available to you. You will be better prepared to communicate effectively to minority consumers as a result.
3. Talk. Sit down, talk and truly listen to a friend, co-worker or another person from a minority group who you feel comfortable with. Ask them how they describe their experience being a minority in the United States. Ask them what moves them, what is important to them. Note their answers and use them to your advantage in your future communications, both corporate and personal, with members of minority groups.
4. Watch TV. For one week, watch mainstream television stations. Take note of the advertising you see as targeting minority markets. Note the number of the advertisements, their focus, and their tone. Compare the attributes and frequency of minority advertising to general-market advertising. You may be surprised at what you find.
These simple exercises are only stepping stones along your way to understanding what it is like to be the minority. It is certainly better to understand this sooner than later, because soon in the United States, there will be no majority.