Do you remember the Sneetches?

The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss, tells a lot about the interactions made between majorities and minorities. In the story, Sneetches with stars on their bellies are “superior” to the ones without.

The star bellied Sneetches believe they are inherently better than the Sneetches without stars, when in reality there is not much that differentiates them.

This is similar to the way the majorities in most groups treat minorities. In many cases majorities will feel they have superiority to minority groups simply because they are of the bigger group. There are more voices agreeing with majorities than shouting against them, making it easier to act negatively toward minorities. Just like in the story when the star-bellied sneetches refused to talk to the plain-bellied Sneetches or even let their children play together, majorities can do similar things to minorities.

So why should you care about the relationship between majorities and minorities?

My guess is that you have been apart of one or the other at some point in your life. In that case I don’t believe you can walk away from this article pretending like it doesn’t matter to you. A prime example of the effects that majorities have on minorities is shown through an aspect of college life. Most universities in this country are liberal. College campus are places where you can find some of the most diverse groups of people in the world. What should that tell you about the students and staff that attend the school. You would think being around so many different people,(especially in someplace as diverse as a college campus, the students would be open to learning and understanding new ideas) everyone is open and understanding, unfortunately that’s not always the case.

Having so many students that have the same liberal world views can actually be quite detrimental to people who don’t think the same way. When people within the majority encounter someone with a differing belief, they will often automatically assume that the other person is wrong because it counters their beliefs. This is because the people who have been surrounded by like minded people have never been tested on their beliefs and, as a result, are much less open to other ideas and opinions. In an article written by the New York Times, the author describes that many conservatives feel like they are “equivalent of someone who was gay in Mississippi in 1950”, in that they feel they can’t “come out” of the closet for fear of being ridiculed for their beliefs. Majority influence causes many problems for minorities in academia as well as many other cases.

Another example of majority and minority discrimination can be seen by looking directly at the migration of the British to current day America. When the pilgrims came to the new land, they may not have been the majority in the moment bust as more English settlers came to the New World, they overtook the Native Americans already living there. The pilgrims saw the Natives as “savages with their divergent what of thinking, and wanting to change them.” Throughout the 1890–1900’s, english settlers began to conform Native Americans by putting them in boarding schools and Westernizing them because the British thought that that was the “right” way of thinking. (Sociology 269, Glenn Tsunokai, class at Western Washington University) Like the English, thinking that you are always right because of the people you are surrounded by can not only hurt yourself but you can seriously hurt others of differing opinions as well.

Majority and minority conflicts can happen in many different situations, but doesn’t mean people can’t do anything about it. In the story the Sneetches go through a machine that adds and takes away the stars on their bellies. By the end all of the Sneetches are so jumbled up they don’t know who had the stars and who did not. They then realize it doesn’t really matter who have stars on their bellies and who don’t, they are all still just Sneetches.

Majorities can affect minorities in such harmful ways causing a lot of problems between the groups. However, societies would not be able to exist without having both. Being in either can give you unique experiences that may allow you to become a better person. All I hope for you is that if you are apart of the majority, you try your best to be as open minded as possible and to realize that what you think is right may not be the only opinion and your actions can can seriously affect others who do not think like you.

As Mark Twain famously said “next time you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform, pause and reflect.”