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The term “minority group” has different meanings depending on context. When used by the American government on census forms or for official purposes, it refers to African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans and excludes most people of European background.

In common usage, the term “minority” has a strong connotation with a group that is somehow subordinate to the dominant group or culture in terms of political power, economics, education, social status, employment or other important indicators.

In American cities, a “minority neighborhood” is one inhabited by African Americans, Hispanics or both. These neighborhoods are in some cases quite stable, in others hotbeds of drug use, poverty, unemployment and crime. In many cases, a so-called minority group could constitute the majority of the population of a city, the African American population of Washington, DC and the Hispanic population of Miami, Florida being but two examples.

The best way to treat the concept of minorities in the United States is to use the term less rather than more. Classifications involving minorities tend to be arbitrary and in many cases unfairly stereotype the people they describe, as well as the communities in which they live.

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