Minorities change the world – but how?

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Minorities all around the world are often faced with various problems. The Rohingya are being displaced from Myanmar, the indigenous peoples are being systematically discriminated, Uyghurs are being held in concentration camps in the very 2019, in Bosnia only people coming from certain ethnic backgrounds can become members of the Presidency, and in Saudi Arabia women were allowed to drive only in 2018. There certainly are examples of good practices, e.g. in the European Union; however, systems need to be changed in order to be able to integrate minorities without depriving their rights. Also, political and activist minorities demanding changes sometimes fail and sometimes succeed in their fight.

Minorities can indeed change the views of majorities, thus provoking a change in the system. If it were otherwise, women would still not be able to vote (in some countries even drive a car, obviously), benefits of nuclear proliferation would still be in the forefront, and the Earth would be yet another dump. It is minority influence that enabled for some radical changes throughout human history. But why do some minorities succeed and some don’t in this quest for better societies?

Several factors are responsible for success of minority influence (and when talking about minority, we don’t only think of numerical, but rather status minorities). A minority aims at producing social change by creating, drawing attention to or bringing a conflict to the spotlight. The single most important factor is consistency. Moscovici identified following effects of a consistent minority:

  • It produces uncertainty and doubt about the majority norms.
  • It draws attention to itself as an entity.
  • It demonstrates that there are alternative coherent points of view.
  • It is committed to and certain about its point of view.
  • It demonstrates the only solution to be the adoption of minority viewpoint.

Other important characteristics of successful minorities are showing a consensus, being distinct from the majority, being unmotivated by self-interest and external pressures, and flexible in style. They need to offer something different, that is appropriately backed up, and be persevering. Also, conformity to the majority social norms decreases if there are other people that are rising against them.

If you want to make a change, offer something creative, be true to yourselves, dare to be role models for those in doubt and be consistent. There will certainly be backfire since the majority will try to maintain the norms that are in their favour. Find inspiration in others’ examples and stay strong. Difference doesn’t come over night. Create a critical mass and persist.

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