Racial and ethnic groups whose members are especially disadvantaged in a given society may be referred to as minorities
. This term has more to do with social factors than with numbers. For example, while people with green eyes may be in the minority, they are not considered to be “true” minorities. From a sociological perspective, minorities generally have a sense of group identity
(“belonging together”) and separateness
(“being isolated from others”). They are also disadvantaged
in some way when compared to the majority of the population. Of course, not all minorities experience all three of these characteristics; some people are able to transcend their master status
, or social identity as defined by their race or ethnicity.
Most minority groups are locked in to their minority standing, regardless of their achieved level of personal success. They live in certain regions of a country, certain cities, and certain neighborhoods—the poorest areas, more often than not. That is, ethnicity is often associated with social inequalities of power, prestige, and wealth—all of which can lead to hostility between groups within a society. Finally, to preserve their cultural identity, most minorities value endogamy
, or marriage within the group. Put another way, intermarriage between minority and majority groups, or even between different minority groups, is not always sanctioned by both groups. Prohibiting intermarriage reduces the possibility of assimilation
, or gradual adoption of the dominant culture's patterns and practices.