Sep 18 2012
10:19 am

I was reading this KNS article about a local black-owned business group filing a complaint with the DOJ regarding Knox County and City of Knoxville contracts when I ran across JFM's quote regarding "disadvantaged businesses."

The term "disadvantaged" was a little jarring. My first thought was businesses are "disadvantaged" because they are owned by women or minorities? That sounds insulting. Discriminated against maybe, which is certainly a disadvantage.

I did some googling and learned that "disadvantaged business" is a term of art relating to federal contracting guidelines. It appears it was invented by the DOT, which requires state DOTs to have similar policies. Other federal agencies have similar policies.

I understand the need and support the policies. Perhaps we should come up with a different term, though, like "under-represented" or something.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I have the same observation concerning the term "under-served" student populations, in reference to poor and/or minority student populations in our public schools.

In actuality, we all know that a greater volume of per pupil education spending at all levels--federal, state, and local--is directed to this student population than to the population comprised of students who are wealthier and/or part of the current racial majority.

I fully appreciate that this needs to be, that these so-called "under-served" students simply require more academic and social supports.

More pragmatically, I also appreciate that we can "pay now or pay later" in our decisions as to how much more per pupil spending may be necessary for this group in order to derive the desired benefit, namely their academic and life success.

Still, the suggestion that this group is "under-served" flies in the face of budget realities across the nation.

Rather, the determination governments make every budget cycle is to what extent it will be necessary to "over-serve" this group, relative to what governments "serve" everybody else.

(My comment, you understand, addresses only this matter of semantics.)

j.f.m.'s picture


Without debating the usefulness or precision of the word "disadvantaged," I'd just like to note that that wasn't in a quote -- it was the writer's paraphrase.

And if anyone wants to know more about the city's efforts to broaden its base of contractors, here is some information:


R. Neal's picture

Thanks for the clarification,

Thanks for the clarification, JFM. The topic was also covered here previously.

michael kaplan's picture

It all comes down to

It all comes down to linguistic analysis.

Noam Chomsky had similar issues with the term "failed states."

From a NYTimes book review:

What, he asks, is a failed state? It is one that fails "to provide security for the population, to guarantee rights at home or abroad, or to maintain functioning (not merely formal) democratic institutions." On that definition, Chomsky argues, the United States is the world's biggest failed state.

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