The Madeleine Brand Show for May 17, 2012

If minorities becomes the majority, are they still called 'minorities'?

Immigrant Mother Of American Children Faces Deportation

John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. born Zury Vizguerra, 5 months, gazes at her mother Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented Mexican immigrant on July 10, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.

For the first time, white births were lower than births of minorities.

Typically, when people use terms like minorities, they're referring to groups that have been disadvantaged in some capacity over history. Women were never a minority in numbers, but are still called a minority group.

If the population changes and Hispanics outnumber whites, would people still refer to them as a minority? Tannen believes so, "that's how language works, it becomes its own meaning regardless of how the actual numbers or facts are."

But if the change is dramatic, it could be changed by the people within that group. For example, like how African-Americans were called colored, then negro, then afro-american.

Guest:

Deborah Tannen, Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University.


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