Is "BAME" the wrong description?

I'm as outraged as most of us by the years of evidence of across many govt bodies of institutionalised racism and the unchallenged despicable violence and discrimination against people of colour in the US. But why have we suddenly lumped all UK diversity into one acronym? Many of us spent years campaigning to get 16 ethnic groups into the census and health data, and now we are all in it together. Which is not the truth. Not all BAME groups are equally disadvantaged and discriminated against, and not all BAME groups are at high risk of Covid-19. We are not all the same.


  • Sounds reasonable.

    What would you like them to say?
  • The movement is going to tear itself apart precisely due to these kinds of issues - in itself it's kind of racist to lump all ethnicities into one category, as racist as saying that all white people are this and all black people are that.

    I feel like the valid issues of racism, institutional and systemic, brought up recently are being pulled in so many directions right now, it's getting completely watered down and confused. Maybe due to social media or BLM not having one leader to articulate an action plan coherently.

    I don't know the answers to my confusion, but it's shared by a lot of people I know.

    At least people are talking, reading and learning right now.

  • Hi tricksy. I completely understand your point. As joust asked, what d you suggest as an alternative - or is it the case that you don't have one yet but this is nonetheless something that frustrates you? I think one reason that diverse groups get lumped together (other than convenience/laziness) is the common factor that they experience racism from a predominantly white society/institutions/power structures, and that this shared experience may be more important than the relative degrees of racism which they experience (and which could also lead to a kind of Discrimination Olympics).
  • I'm barely entitled to hold an opinion on such matters, but I've never been able to figure out why 'minority ethnic' makes grammatical sense rather than 'ethnic minority'.
  • Personally I think that people from ethnic minorities should tell us how they want to be described. This is a good basis in an equal society. In the US it seems that the term "People of Colour" has been chosen. But here, the term BAME seems to have suddenenly arisen as a lazy or neutral way for other to describe a very diverse range of people. It is true that many black people are united in discrimination by whites, but not all ethnic minorities are black. People forget that.
  • I suspect it's only "minority ethnic" to make it BAME and not BAEM, and to allow whoever invented the stupid term to look down their nose at those of us outmoded enough to be using "ethnic minority" or whatever else.
  • Indeed. All pronounced the same and easier for media presenters to deal with in one lump
  • I think it's a generational thing, as if you've been to uni in the past 5/10 years you'd know that BAME is pretty mainstream as well as POC and are mostly Americanisms from academia and the media.

    Most of my mates and my partner who aren't white just refer to themselves as their individual minority backgrounds. Personally I think it's a bit sinister grouping people like this, but as noted above, it's the relation between minority groups and white people that groupings like these arise.
  • tricksy, I wholly agree that people from ethnic minorities should choose how they are described. I thought you were a member of one of those groups, which is why I asked for your view.
  • Yes you are right. I consider myself part of a white ethnic minority. And I know how offended I feel when people decide what they want to call me.

    This reminds me of a dilemma I discovered among Peruvians. Indigenous Peruvians describe themselves as "Chollo", but they claim it is a racist slur when white people use that name....
  • “People of colour” is an even more stupid term than “coloured people”, saying the same thing, but with a touch of grammatical pomposity to attempt authority, and is a feeble PC tweaking of the latter term which sounded crass even when it was current in the ‘70s and ‘80s; We are all “of colour”, so the term really implies “people of (a different) colour (from we who think of ourselves as the norm)”. It’s a “them-and-us” term.
  • Scruffy in his indomitable way, raises a key point - the people of color/colour label is equally being pushed aside as it relates colour in comparison to white (white by this standard becoming the 'norm').

    Tricksy makes a very good point, asking people how they want to be referred to, be it as a race/Gender/sexuality/other is, in my opinion, the best way forward and working towards making that question in conversation not so uncomfortably British is something i'm trying to do in day to day life.
  • That is a good way forward. I'm reminded of an Irish exhibition where a guy repeatedly explains he is Irish when asked: where are you from? Those asking are all incredulous simply because he has dark brown skin.
  • "Where are you from" being a question rarely asked of white Englishers...
  • Believe me, @cmo , I’m Just as domitable as the next man/woman/person-of-unspecified-gender, but thank you for your comment. However, I disagree with your assertion that how people wish to be referred to in terms of their “ race/Gender/sexuality/other” is a matter of their choice. Most common terms of race, gender, and sexuality are well defined generally through society’s use of language, and more specifically in the sciences, and that’s what gives those terms any usefulness and currency. I don’t mean to sound facile, but there’s no point in my cat defining herself as a dog, just because she feels that way; she’s still clearly a cat by common and scientific standards, otherwise all such words become meaningless. But that’s not to say that people shouldn’t express their race, gender, or sexuality in their own way; they absolutely should be free to do so. (If my cat wants to bark…)
  • Actually @scruffy the scientific definitions of ethnicity are derived precisely by self assignment! But the categories for the UK are fixed
  • grennersgrenners Ferme Park Road, N4
    I think we should stop labelling and categorising people. I don't want to be labelled 'white' and I don't want to label anyone else and go around listening to it and focussing unnecessarily on race. The more we use labels and focus on race the more we are stuck in the past looking at race as the reason, dividing ourselves, when really it's probably some other cause.
  • cmocmo
    edited June 2020
    Grenners, again an interesting point and i'm simply regurgitating some of the articles i've been reading recently for public discourse - the notion of being 'colour-blind' - i.e, I don't see skin colour just a person, however well intentioned is again another form of bias in a lot of people's eyes.

    To not 'see' the colour of someone's skin, specifically if that skin is not white, is a luxury afforded to predominantly white people - they don't need to see skin colour as something that defines them as it has very little influence, perceptibley, on their lives. The opposite being true for people who are not white.

    No judgement here, just thoughts that have occured to me and in all honesty, have surprised me in my well intentioned liberal bubble.
  • Scruffy, defining ethnicity is not the same as defining a species. How would one *scientifically* define someone as black, South Asian, Latinx, white, etc?

    cmo, I agree with you that it's a privilege to say that we should not see skin colour. Without meaning to impute this to grenners, I think that argument is often used by people who don't want to take the active steps required to make real change, and who push for their version of "meritocracy" (ie retaining the status quo).
  • This is good debate. I can see now that what the census has struggled to do is not the same as how people think about themselves and others. La lotta continua.
  • And...having been part of the women's movement for decades, I think it is also important to say that you have to define those discriminated against first and campaign for equal treatment long before you can refer to someone as a "person"
  • grennersgrenners Ferme Park Road, N4
    I'm not saying that doesn't exist somewhere but there's loads of examples of people saying this is not the way to go, Morgan Freeman keeps going on about it and loads of other people. Lil Wayne the rapper. We are just being manipulated and fed a narrative by those who's interests it serves to perpetuate this and blow it up. It actually creates division in my view. People are paid to say things and it exploits people. That might be BLM funded by Soros via Open Foundations, amplified by Antifa, paid by who? And pumped around on media by who? It's not as black and white as it's made out to be. Regarding specific accurate definitions for serious science purposes or whatever then fine but we shouldn't be going around throwing labels at each other in daily life and then getting offended at being mislabeled my view. Need to stop that otherwise we are all victims.
  • Really impressed by the tone of this discussion, for what its worth. - the anti-Twitter.

    Putting my Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict MSc hat on for a moment, it is correct to say that ethnicity is marked by self-definition, as opposed to an imposed 'ethnic category'. The French have a word for the latter, *ethnie*.

    Also agree that it's a white-person's luxury to be colour-blind. I do, though, think that this should be the end goal. I don't look forward to a world in which all people take pride in their 'race' (as opposed perhaps to ethnicity, which is primarily about culture). Indeed the end goal should be the recognition that race is a bullshit unscientific concept, and that treating it as real is in itself racist. Skin colour should be no more relevant than hair colour or eye colour. I fear we've got a long way to go before we can indulge in those luxuries though.
  • edited June 2020
    It's worth stressing that ethnicity differs from race because it's about (ever-changing) culture rather than a spurious grouping based on arbitrary biological difference (there are always more biological commonalities between 'races' and differences within them for race to make conceptual sense).

    To the extent that one ethnic group is genetically different to a historically neighbouring group is due to to in-marriage, which is itself a cultural practice.
  • @tricksy, "the scientific definitions of ethnicity are derived precisely by self assignment! But the categories for the UK are fixed" —I don't follow you. Would you expand on that please?
  • Yes. The office for national statistics consulted widely on census categories & yes they are fixed into 16 groups. When people's individual ethnicity is recorded those individuals self- assign which group they belong to.
  • edited June 2020

    White British is an ethnic category.
    English is an ethnicity.

    One is self-defined, the other is not.
  • grenners, I am curious about this: "People are paid to say things and it exploits people. That might be BLM funded by Soros via Open Foundations, amplified by Antifa, paid by who?" That suggests that BLM is driven by people funding it (to what end, precisely), rather than those funds helping a largely grass-roots movement to be better organised in order to achieve its aims (i.e., racial and social justice). As for anti-fa, it is not one organisation as much as diverse individuals or small groups with some shared aims. (Which is why Trump claiming that he is going to take action against it is absurd, and impossible). I think that when people start asking who is funding these things and why, and then mentioning Soros, I get a bit nervous that things are moving towards the conspiracy theory side of things.
  • grennersgrenners Ferme Park Road, N4
    Well I mention him because he is the most famous. He has given 32 billion dollars of his own money to organisations in the name of philanthropy. That's immense power. Nobody elected people like this and how they operate should be questioned just like anyone else with this position. I mentioned him because he has an outright political agenda totally open and the extent of his influence globally is massive on all sorts of things. Suggesting worse is a bit low in my opinion. There is influence I think that BLM is not an organic grassroots movement if it's agenda is influenced by money and its mission statement approved by Open Foundations. You can call it conspiracy but I tend to think you need to question the money.
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