The Minority Question in A Democracy: The U.S. Example

Democracy covets the majority, no doubt satisfactory to the 19th century utilitarians like Jeremy Bentham — whose dressed up remains sit in a glass cage at University College London, although with a wax head.  But what about the minority(ies)?  The question is particularly apt in religiously, ethnically or racially diverse societies.  The topic did not concern Bentham much for the England of his day was sufficiently homogeneous for it not to matter.

There is of course the politics of inclusion as evidenced by the selection of Kamala Harris by Joe Biden to be his vice-presidential running mate.  She has a Jamaican father and an Indian (Tamil) Hindu mother.  Both parents were academics:  father in economics, mother in nutrition and health.  After the parents’ divorce, Kamala was brought up by her mother with presumably the Hindu virtues of conservation and hard work. 

The US has had a black president in Barack Obama.  He had a Kenyan (student in the US) father and a white mother.  Obama, known as Barry when he was growing up, was reared by his white grandparents in Hawaii.  Derogatory blacks branded him an Oreo cookie, black on the outside, white inside. 

Thus neither Obama nor Harris are truly representative of the vast majority of America’s African-American community, those whose antecedents were forcibly brought here as slaves and sold as chattel; they and their descendents owned forever until their master set them free.  That is until slavery was abolished.  Their labor made possible the cotton plantations of the US South, and the aristocratic way of life of their white owners.  American blacks have a different history and experience, mostly of systematic overt and later covert discrimination compounded by the horrors of poverty, poor schools — because schools in the US are funded mostly by property taxes — and closing windows of advancement, all leading up to high crime rates, etc.  Hence the anger latent in the recent Black Lives Matter movement.

Often the anger erodes sympathy from the majority as when crowds of so-called demonstrators were transported from the mostly black South Side of Chicago to Chicago’s most exclusive shopping street, Michigan Avenue, where they went on a rampage, breaking windows, looting and generally running wild.  The police were unprepared for the onslaught, and Chicago’s black mayor, Lori Lightfoot, is unable to act forcefully against her own constituency.  There the matter stands.

Riled up, minorities can be a force, often for disruption sometimes destruction.  The angry Basques in Spain a while ago are one example.  Though it’s probably a safe bet that the Black Lives Matter protests will have died out by November … unless a new outrageous incident by heavy-handed police somewhere revives it again.

Is Trump worried about the Biden-Harris ticket?  Well, he has already started sniping at Harris, drawing attention to the allegation that Harris was born outside the country.  Provably false but then the truth at  individual levels is what one chooses to believe.  One only has to think of the multitude of religions in the world, each professing the gospel truth. 

Yes, majorities win and lead in a democracy but minorities are not without power …  should they choose to exercise it.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.