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Minority community groups

Characteristics of minority groups

Within the community we see all sorts of factions, sub groups, splinter groups that do not share some of the characteristics of the wider community that they are a part of. These groups are at the extreme ends of the community that they are a part of. These members may have different values, a different agenda, a particular need, are of a particular age group or disability, or have some other characteristic that distinguishes themselves from the rest of the community.

In the Muslim community we see different groups that have different agendas that are not representative of the Muslim community. In the disability community we see different groups that have different needs. The same thing happens in any community where the members find that they have no real connections within the wider community (marginalised).

Individuals that are at the ends of the social scale tend to be marginalised because:

1) Communities can become conditioned to behave a certain way. There are numerous examples where the patterns of behaviour within a community have been influenced by a person, event or activity that involves the whole community. They can happen in a short time, or over a period of generations. The attack on the World Trade Centre is a good example where community attitudes and behaviours were changed in a day. The motor car, the telephone, internet and other forms of communication have also changed the way communities behave. We also see the creation of new communities and cultures built around cult figures, ideologies, music etc. Communities can change with each new generation where young people find their own identities, they develop their own language, cultures and customes that are unfamular to older generations. We see communities that have to adapt to the changing landscape. The RSL was formed to support solders returned from the great wars. With the numbers of solders getting smaller each year the RSL is having to find new ways of staying relevant to the community as a whole. Religous communities are also having to look new ways they can stay in touch with the changing needs of their members.
Communities can also change in a subtle way that is not recognised until the transformation has happened. These changes can affect whole communities or communities within communities where members grow up in families and environments, and learn particular ways of thinking, they learn the behaviours, values and roles of their peers. New generations live in communities that are consumer orientated (consumer societies). Why do it your self when you can purchase it?  We loose the skills and knowledge to be self sufficent, we see the advertising and become conditioned to a belief that a product is better for us. While the motor car has opened new horizons, we have become dependant on it in almost every aspact of our lives. Governments have also contributed to the reconstruction of communities by becomming service providers or regulating service sectors. There is a great deal of debate about the role of governments in todays society. Just as communities of 2nd and 3rd generation unemployed in England and Europe have lost the skills to actively engage in a productive work culture (Their parents and others have not provided the necessary roles - getting up to go to work etc), and therefore depend (are dependant) on social welfare, so too, communities have lost the skills (or never had them) in providing for the needs of people that have a physical or intellectual disability. The current generation is growing up in a society where service providers provide direct intervention in the care of people with disability and the community supports these activities. They see the ads, read the literature. Their families and peers strengthen this culture and so it becomes the social norm.

2) They are generally outside the experiences of the other members of the community.
Anything that is different to what is expected will elicit a negative response; I dont know how to deal with the situation, or I dont want to deal with this situation, or someone else can deal with this situation, or a conditioned response that has been successful in the past, or learned from other members, or passed down from generation to generation and embedded into the culture.
Comunities can also be suspicious of anything new or different. The beliefs, values, cultures and behaviours (institutions) are valued as a part of the community and anything that comes along that challenges these institutions will be resisted. Muslems for example bring their traditions with them and expect everyone else to respect them. They live and participate in the community but find that they may become marganilised because their cultures, customes and behaviours are not accepted within the wider community.

3) Communities generally cater for the community as a whole, rather than meeting individual needs.
When designing facilities, services or activities for the community, it is impracticable to measure everyone in the community, so a standard is used that takes into account the averages of its members. Buildings are built to a standard, services are designed to meet certain criteria, education and recreational activities are designed around the average person. Any one outside these averages will be disadvantaged. My mother is fairly independent, but restricted to a wheel chair, and simple things like going to the movies etc become a logistical headache. I know that when I buy a pair of pants or a shirt my size it may take me a while to find the right size because one size in one brand is not the same fit in another brand (too big or small). I find the whole process frustrating, and can somewhat imagine what it would be like for someone with a severe physical disability to go throughout their whole life like that.

4) There is generally some form of harm, friction or conflict of interests between the members. A good example is where a person with a physical disability tries to do some shopping and cannot access the shop for various reasons, and complains to the management. The management does not see the need to make any modifications (too expensive etc) and sees the person as a trouble maker. The person becomes frustrated and angry with the manager or feels marginalised in not being able to participate in the activity. The members of the minority group (or others acting on their behalf) become aggressive in asserting their rights (and sometimes without regard to the rights of the others). We see various minority rights movements actively promoting their cause through community education, protests, demonstrations, riots and civil wars. The rights of people with disability that are enshrined in law (Disability Service Standards etc) only came about through advocacy and education, were people made a stand against the community. People can also be marginalised by their behaviour, the activities that they participate in (taking illegal drugs, stealing etc) or association to a particular ethnic, cultural or religious group (street gangs, crime gangs, extreme religious groups etc). There is a perception that the characteristic is harmfull or dangerous to other members of the community. Other people that have aids or a particular contagious disease etc are also marginalised (or even disenfranchised) to protect the other members of the community.

5) Its too hard. People that do not have the support networks necessary for participating in the activities of the community, or may not be able to cope with other members of the community become marginalised. Members that do not have the means (through a disability or a lack of resources - personal and social) find that it is better to just stay at home or mix with their own kind. People who share a characteristic that is rare in the community often become marginalised because of a lack of resources to support their needs. Safety and security also become more important than being a part of the community. A good example is where famous people are hounded by the paparazzi, they feel victimised and powerless to the point that their lives are at risk.

We may be valued as a part of one community, but devalued (and marginalised) in another community because of a particular characteristic that is not shared with the other members of the community. Australian aboriginals and American Indians are labelled as a minority groups not because of their numbers, but that they often have a different (and some would say lower) lifestyle than what is considered the norm in Australia or America. People that have a physical or intellectual disability are also regarded as a minority group within the community. If I went to India, I would be considered as a part of a minority group because of my skin colour etc. Minority groups in politics often represent the extreme ends of the political spectrum.

Extremely wealthy people, royalty, film and pop stars etc can also be labelled as a minority group in as much they become victimised and have less control over what they can and cant do. Just think of the President of the United States, the Queen of England or the Pope, can they just pop down to the shops to do their laundry, buy groceries or go down to the pub and have a few beers with the locals? Wealthy people in Arabia, Africa, Papua New Guinea (and even in parts of America and Europe) and other countries have to fortify their homes, drive in conveys in armoured cars etc. They get treated differently and loose some control over their personal lives. Successful people (senior company executives etc) often need to watch their back (so to speak) for fear of being knocked of the perch (so to speak) and being replaced by others. We see others that aspire to that status, are jealous or envious of their position try to knock them down (tall poppy syndrome).

Groups of people can be marginalised very easily. People who smoke tobacco are being increasingly marginalised by the increasing restrictions in where they can smoke. We also see P plate drivers being restricted in the type of vechicle they are allowed to drive. People who are overweight are being refused elective surgery, people with drug dependencies are being denied safe controlled places to use the drug and have the opportunity to 'kick' the habit.

Community services and organisations sometimes unintentionally marginalise their members by:
... Providing facilities and services (buildings, transport, staff etc) that are seperate from the community.
... Providing living, recreational, educational programs that are within the organisation.

Over time, these activities become the social norm, where the community learns new values, expectations, and patterns of behaviour. The community becomes dependant on the community services and organisations in fulfilling their role in providing for the needs of it's members. The community service or organisation that supports its members, may become a community in it's own right.

The members:
... Develop the social networks and participate in the activities of the community service or organisation.
... Are valued within the community service or organisation.
... Feel connected to each other and are interdependent on each other for various reasons.
... Communicate with each other.
... Share resources etc
... Become identified as a part of the community service or organisation.

The individual members within the minority group are further marginalised by the community service or organisation in the fact that they need to fill a set of criteria or characteristics before they can receive support. Members that do not have a support group (or can not get to one) have no real way ot get out of their situation.

In remote areas where there are no services,
or where they do not fit the criteria of a service,
or where a service does not have the skills and resources,
they have to rely on their own networks and support mechanisms or others in the community for support.

If the person or group does not have any support:
may become isolated
may become a burden on their own community
may be placed in other services that are not appropriate to their needs
may be grouped together
may be labeled with the same characteristics
may have their rights taken away from them
may be seen as a minority group and therefore may be treated as a minority group
may be denied the good things in life that are available to others in the community

A lack of skills and resources in the community also means that the person may be seen as:
a sick person : the person is treated differently to others
a nuisance : takes up resources that are needed elsewhere
a troublemaker : is always trying to standup for their basic rights
an object of pity : the person can not look after themselves
subhuman or retarded : is not capable of making their own decisions

In fact some members of these groups are often placed in the same settings today (both literally and figuratively) that Goffman, Wolfensberger and others wrote about in the past.
Asylum seekers
People with drug and alcohol problems
People with mental illnesses
People with high support needs

Characteristics of minority groups:  (Top)
"Sociologist Louis Wirth defined a minority group as "a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination." This definition includes both objective and subjective criteria: membership of a minority group is objectively ascribed by society, based on an individual's physical or behavioural characteristics; it is also subjectively applied by its members, who may use their status as the basis of group identity or solidarity. In any case, minority group status is categorical in nature: an individual who exhibits the physical or behavioural characteristics of a given minority group will be accorded the status of that group and be subject to the same treatment as other members of that group." (Sociology of minority groups)

Minority groups are about groups of people that see them selves, or are seen, as having a particular characteristic that is different from what is considered as the social norm. Minority groups are not about size, but more about the characteristic of the group being at the extreme ends of the social scale of the community in which they participate.

Characteristics of a Minority Group: (Based on Richard T. Schaefer, Racial and Ethnic Groups 5 - 10 (1993))
"Distinguishing physical or cultural traits, e.g. skin color or language
Unequal Treatment and Less Power over their lives
Involuntary membership in the group (no personal choice)
Awareness of subordination and strong sense of group solidarity
High In-group Marriage"

Other characteristics of a Minority Group:
... Have a particular characteristic that is not shared with other members in the community.
... Located at the extreme ends of the social scale of the community in which they participate.
... There are generally a conflict of interests between the members of the minority group and others in the community.
... Are marginalised or even disenfranchised.

When providing the most appropriate care for people with high support needs ...
1) The community is not where the person is living, but where the person participates, shares experiences and has valued relationships with others.
2) People with high support needs (severe disability, aged etc.) will always need support structures as a part of their lives.
3) The amount of participation in a community (living, education, employment or recreation) is directly related to the skills and resources of the person, and, the skills and resources of the community that the person wishes to participate in.
4) Institutions are going to be around in one form or another whether we like it or not, It is the way that they are used that is the problem.
5) The institutions of a society towards a particular group determine the way the group participates in society.
6) The institutions of a particular government department, organisation, profession or service define the way the person is supported within that society.
7) Facilities that support people with high support needs do not need to be the nursing homes or prisons in the sense that they are today, but can become warm inviting community places that offer a range of services to the community, as well as be a part of the wider community within that society.
8) People with high support needs are a minority group in our society, and will have the same problems as other minority groups in being a part of society.