It’s BAME Over For Schools

If you don’t have white skin then how do other people refer to you?

By your name hopefully, but when it comes to categorising people, chances are, if you live in the UK, you’ll be lumped under the label of BAME, an outdated, misleading and divisive acronym that does not help to progress true diversity and inclusion yet is still widely used across society including lots of schools.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) catch-all phrases are unhelpful umbrella terms that many want to see the back of.

They “are unwieldy and lack nuance” (Okolosie, 2015), a term that has “severe limitations” (Harker, 2015), it is “unsuitable” (Dabiri, 2015) and it is lazy language.

A number of years ago, Trevor Phillips, a former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said that BAME and BME had outlived their usefulness as phrases. He suggested that instead we could perhaps consider using commonly used US terms such as “people of colour” or “visible minorities”.

Louise Harling (2020) on the Carbon Literacy Project website argues that there are some serious issues with BAME. She says:

  • it fails to take into account how individuals themselves want to be identified and groups a huge diversity of individuals together who have historically experienced a vast range of different experiences.
  • some people are grouped into the BAME classification without actually identifying with these identities, e.g. people of mixed heritage.
  • not all issues referred to as BAME issues impact every member of the BAME community. Class is more likely to be a relevant factor.
  • it fails to account for and distinguish between different cultures, lifestyles, prejudices, and historical or lived experiences.
  • BAME is a term which has been coined in predominantly white countries.

As cited in this excellent article in The Independent by Inc Arts founder Amanda Parker, BAMEOver is a campaign to eradicate the use of this lame term completely.

Perhaps at one time BAME was intended to strengthen and unify but today it is a lazy homogenisation of all non-white groups that fails to recognise individual struggles.

Throughout August more than 1,000 people took Inc Arts’ #BAMEOver survey, and on 4th September 2020 over 250 people came together to reset the terms of reference for people with lived experience of racism.

We set out to answer the question, ‘What do we want to be called?’

BAMEOver: Our terms of reference

  • We do not want to be grouped into a meaningless, collective term, or reduced to acronyms.
  • We are African Diaspora people
  • We are South, East and South East Asian diaspora people,
  • and we are ethnically diverse.
  • We are people who experience racism.

Use these terms in any order you choose.

Using the download on the Inc Arts UK website, get your local MP to lobby for the removal of the acronym BAME from government media, statistics and public discourse.

And while we are at it, let’s get schools to move with the times and to stop using a term that has had its day. It is far too convenient and lazy to say it is “a succinct way to refer to the many ethnic minority groups in England.

If you refer to some of your students as ‘BAME pupils’ then think again how this damaging label creates problems and divisions.

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