Terms Like ‘Minorities’ and ‘Marginalized’ Can Be Harmful

Editor’s note: In this article, Adweek deviated from its style of using Latinx due to the writer’s preference. Latine is a gender-neutral form of Latino.

“Let’s hire a diverse candidate for this role.”

“We should target underserved communities with this campaign.”

“We need more minorities in this spot.”

We’ve all been in rooms where these statements were shared, or perhaps these phrases poured out of our very own mouths.

Using words like “minority” or “marginalized,” for example, is ultimately harmful rhetoric because it diminishes and others groups of people, suggesting they’re small and inferior. Marketers should see the opportunity in speaking to these audiences as the ultimate business proposition, not an action they have to do because of cultural pressure.

There are moments when we need to speak broadly about people who are not white, cis-gendered, straight, able-bodied men and there are more impactful ways to do that. For every other instance, we should lean into the specificity of who it is that is being referred to because if you’re speaking generally, you’ll get generic results.

Speaking broadly

When speaking broadly, we at Worthi use the term “underestimated audiences.” We gravitate toward this phrase because the word “estimated” is closely tied to valuation and business impact.

When you underestimate an entity, you miss out on some sort of return due to a miscalculation of effort. The act of speaking directly to Black, Latine, LGBTQ+, AAPI, PWD and other audiences feels like it’s inherently related to diversity, equity and inclusion, or something done to be considered charitable. In actuality, the data shows these audiences are critical for business longevity due to their increasing size, outsized influence and buying power that rivals the GDP of many major countries.

Terms like “marginalized” give the impression that these audiences are off to the side watching the world pass them by, which is not the case at all. These are audiences who are constantly at the forefront of culture, driving the trends and shaping habits of the mass market.

“Minorities” is now non-factual, as there is nothing minor about these audiences’ sheer population, cultural impact or buying power.

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