What Does It Actually Mean To Be Marginalized?

marginalized communities

Marginalization is about how certain people are constantly excluded from society because of things they have no control over. It can show up in several aspects of daily life like at school or work. It can also affect people due to age, gender, of what country they’re from. While marginalization can be fixed, it’s a long process that requires a lot of changing how society gives value to individual people. 

Key Takeaways

  • Marginalized people are those who are left out of society on purpose. Generally, because of how different they are from everyone else 
  • The people who fall under the category of marginalized end up there for a variety of reasons. From where you were born, to your religion, to what languages you speak, and even how old you are.   
  • Marginalization can be fixed. But, it requires a lot of work and the ability to face difficult truths that can make you feel uncomfortable. 

What does it mean to be marginalized?

The actual word marginalized comes from the idea that the people it makes reference to live on the margins of society. They’re not allowed to access basic services or are given fewer opportunities than everyone else. All because of things they can’t control. 

It’s important to realize as well that marginalization also has a direct correlation to how valuable society thinks they are. For example, disabled people are more likely to be marginalized because society considers them unable to participate in the “correct way”. They might not be able to work all the same jobs at the same speed, or they might need extra accommodations to be able to perform their best.  

What are different ways you can be marginalized?

Marginalized people can be found across several places in society, and based on a variety of reasons.    


Economic marginalization talks about how everything around a person can prevent them from accessing a better economic status. Think about it this way: if you never had access to that great high school your parents sent you to, would you have gotten into that great college? If you didn’t go to college, would you have still been able to network to access that great job you got? Maybe you still would have. But the chances of that happening increased as you ticked off more boxes and accedes more places. Going to a good school means access to good jobs. That means access to things like a bank account, and then a small business loan, and then business ownership.


Marginalization doesn’t stop at the economic aspect. Your physical body is also part of the equation. People with disabilities have historically been marginalized due to not being able to keep up with what society deems as acceptable. If your mental health forces you to go slower than your peers, if you’re not able to physically access the equipment you need due to possible disabilities. All those aspects will also cause someone to be more likely to be marginalized. 


Where you were born, where you grew up, and where you live today are also big factors when it comes to marginalization. It’s not uncommon to see whole communities restricted based on those factors, and the majority of those communities tend to be people of color or immigrants. Whole neighborhoods without access to affordable fruits and vegetables to eat, for example, cause an increase in health issues. But, without access to affordable healthcare, these communities just end up more marginalized. There have even been studies done on how much the price of properties goes up in areas where it’s known the people there can’t afford them. Pushing them out further into the geographical fringes of the city – and society.    

What are the negative effects of being marginalized? 

Long-term marginalization can affect one’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Feeling excluded, ignored, and cast aside can create irreparable damage. Feeling angry, anxious, sad, and stressed are all commonly seen consequences. 

The bigger issue is that all the things mentioned above can stay with you for the rest of your life and affect your ability to improve your social and economical status. Marginalization is sneaky like that where it might not seem like a big deal at first but when you’re in it, it’s almost impossible to shake it.  

How can we prevent marginalization?

While demarginalization can be done, it’s not an easy journey to go through. In order to be able to fix the problem, you have to first realize there is a problem in the first place. This is arguably the hardest part since marginalization tends to be the wall discrimination and racism hides behind. It’s a conversation that forces you to come face to face with the possibility that yourself or the people around you are inadvertently discriminating against a specific group of people. 

That said, there are a few simple steps you can follow if you’re looking to create less marginalization in the spaces you’re in. 

Look at what’s happening around you

It’s important to speak with the people who are telling you they feel marginalized to figure out exactly what actions are making them feel that way. Is it the words being used in a conversation? Someone’s inappropriate jokes? The fact that the place you’re in won’t accommodate their different physical needs? Be mindful to not assume, but to ask the affected people directly. And when they do – listen to them. 

Speak up as much as you can

This is a two-fold step. You should bring attention to the situation the moment it happens, and you should also talk about it more in-depth with the person that caused it. When you see marginalization happen, speak up. It can be something as simple as “hey, that’s not really nice to say” and then move on. 

However, make a point of having a larger discussion as soon as you can. People might not be aware of the impact their words and actions can have. Sometimes they simply need to be shown how they can do better. It’s also possible you’ll find people that can’t understand. In that case, it’s a good opportunity to reevaluate if they truly are a good fit or not.   

Show your support

The last step is to really hammer down the public knowledge that you won’t stand for this kind of behavior. When it comes to the workplace it’s a great idea to use the situation to remind people of the existing workplace rules against discrimination. And if you don’t have those in place, then use the moment that happened to create those rules. 

Also, be sure to take a moment to speak with the marginalized person. See how they’re feeling and if there’s anything they might need from you. Show empathy and try to turn around those negative feelings they might have.    

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