A minority often refers to a group smaller in number from the whole—people with backgrounds related to race, religion, ethnicity. However, the definition has evolved to include people who experience relative disadvantage and discrimination.
As a fellow minority of long-standing, I share my experience as a minority. Revealing opportunities one has when classed as a minority and how it can work for you in your life.
I am NZ Maori and a minority. Growing up, I did not realise I was different to others. But I was treated differently. It did take some time for me to realise it was due to my ethnic background.
A few examples of being treated differently; It’s 1981, I am a student nursing popping into a diary with two other Student Nurses. All three of us were in our white Nursing uniform wearing a Nurse’s cap and cape. We were paying for our purchases using personal cheques. My friends had settled and, as I handed over my cheque, the cashier asked me for personal identification. I provided the necessary identification and left the dairy with my friends. My friends were not required to present personal identification, nor were they minorities.
Another example involves the Nursing studies department at Massey University. By this stage, I was a Registered Nurse. I travelled with two fellow Registered Nursing friends to an appointment with the Nursing Department to discuss Post Graduate Nursing studies. The meeting was informative as we neared the end of the session. The Nursing Tutor asked two of us if we had University Entrance (University Entrance is an academic qualification required for admission to an NZ university). We left the meeting, and my friend said, “Well, that was obvious, wasn’t it?” You have probably realised that the two asked were the minorities, both NZ Maori, and we both had the University Entrance qualification. Our European colleague does not have the University Entrance Qualification, nor was she asked.
I share this not to demonstrate the ‘poor me’ for being seen by others as minor, but instead, I want to show you how being a minority and discrimination serves you as a human being.
What are the upsides to being a minority?
You stop assuming people will treat you as an equal or automatically have rights. It is this assumption and that sense of righteousness that just ends up getting in your way of living your own life. If people choose to treat you with politeness and respect, then okay, but I do not assume that will happen.
As a minority, people expect less of you. You are the ‘underdog’. Being the ‘underdog’ gives you the breathing space to be okay to fail as there is no expectation that you have to win! The pressure of having to win creates anxiety, fears and depression. Being the ‘underdog’ gives you the goal to aim for and a sense of freedom within that goal. The All Blacks, an excellent rugby team, have gone into some games as the ‘underdog’; it does not mean they are defeated before they play, but it does mean that they are focused on the game and their own game plan.
The adversity you face builds a deep, long-lasting rapport with fellow minorities. You have your unspoken language of understanding, and it is this understanding that provides a deep connection. You are willing to share what you have and ready to share tips and strategies.
You do not expect others to help, so you get to navigate your pathway. When you fail, you fail and pick yourself up to try again, and when you succeed, you know you achieved despite all the challenges. You get to stop sweating the small stuff that blocks people. You develop self-resilience.
As a minority, you remain alert and aware of non-verbal communication. You are honing those skills. You put backup plans in place. At times I will be excluded, but I can take the opportunity to upskill my social skills and learn how to communicate with others.
As a minority, you look at other ethnic groups with appreciation. For example, when I am travelling overseas, I learn how to greet and thank people in their language. When you say hello to someone in their language, they can’t help but smile. Nor can you at your challenge with the pronunciation.
Not all of those seen as a minority will realise how they can make this work for them; however, if you knew the blessings of being unique, getting the opportunity to be one of the few. Where you are not obligated to follow the masses and mass thinking.
When you experience the essence and embrace being a minority, you can add value to your life and those around you.
Author – Adrienne Gulliver
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