As part of our ongoing work on the use of language in empowering young people, Idris Bamiro, London Regional Manager and part of our Alumni Team, has examined the use of BAME.
Language is a powerful tool that can impact people in different ways, changing how we see ourselves and how the world sees us. To be seen and heard is one of the most important human needs, it makes us feel welcome and valued. It’s therefore essential that, as a charity serving young people from marginalized communities, our language is empowering. That is why, over the last few months, we have spoken to our young people to ensure that they don’t feel diminished by our words
Last year, we consulted our alumni on how the use of BAME and similar acronyms made them feel. After listening to their thoughts and feelings, we have decided to no longer use the term BAME, or similar acronyms such as POC or BIPOC. Such language prevents the culture of possibility, unlocked potential, and the championing of undiscovered talent from all ethnicities which we strive for. Instead, we will use more inclusive, empowering language, such as ‘undiscovered talent’, ‘diverse communities’, and to use the specific identifies which our young people see themselves as.
“It’s not nice to hear that you’re being categorised, it doesn’t allow people to have their own identity. I’m a Nigerian person and I don’t want to be referred to as BAME.”
Equally, it doesn’t correctly identify the true disadvantages that particular ethnic groups face, meaning that systemic inequalities remains hidden. When looking at education and employment, for instance, it masks the different experiences and outcomes which people face.
Moreover, it suggests that people can be divided in to two groups of white and non-white. It ignores the nuances of cultural identity. Nuances which shape who you are as a person: your beliefs, the music you listen to, the food you eat, as well as your customs and traditions.
“I see BAME everywhere. It does make me feel a bit like excluded because it is again like white people and everybody else and I’m not being identified as what I am. I do feel like it does make me feel kind of ‘less than’ in a way.
Finally, it reduces rich and diverse cultures to a politically correct term which is neither specific enough nor accurate to people’s lives. It and others similar will continue to cause upset and offense until a person’s race does not determine their life experiences.
It is brandishing a lot of people under one thing… I don’t want to be inside it either… it’s very non-specific.
While moving from the term BAME is only the start, we acknowledge that, in the short-term, the acronym may still appear in some official documents, such as funding applications. However, we believe it provides a foundation to build upon an important conversation around diversity and identity in the UK and hopefully inspire others to do the same.