Dear white people: We really hate the term BAME, so stop using it

I do not identify as BAME, none of my friends refer to themselves as BAME, so why use the term?

With the recent rise of Black Lives Matter protests, many have started to question the use of the term BAME. An acronym for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic, it is meant to describe the inequalities faced by minorities and to measure diversity within organisations. But far too often BAME is used as an easy and lazy gateway to lump all “non-whites” together to show false signs of diversity and steady progress. More than 7.6 million people in the UK are defined under this single umbrella term. 

I do not identify as BAME, none of my friends refer to themselves as BAME, so why use the term? It fails to tackle the systemic inequalities faced by the individual minorities within the term. It sets “White” as the standard and the “Other” follows. Matt Hancock used BAME as an excuse when asked “How many black people are in the current Cabinet”…there are zero. And another Conservative MP essentially blamed the recent spike of the virus on anyone but white.

For this, many are calling for the abolition of the term BAME.

‘I am mixed Black Caribbean and Polish, and I’m proud of that’

Jessica Lee is a final year student at Royal Holloway University. She started the campaign #AbolishBAME to completely erase the term from institutions and government policies.

“I’ve always felt alienated and detached from my peers because of this term. After George Floyd’s death, my University Principal released a vague statement using the word BAME without directly referring to the collective anxiety of Black students at Holloway. It was shocking. Where was the condemnation of black racial inequality and institutional racism in the UK? I wrote an open letter actively rejecting his use of this term and the ‘all-lives-matter-ing’ of Black problems. 

“BAME acts more to hamper progress towards addressing diversity and racial inequality issues. It has been weaponised to generalise British minorities. Matt Hancock’s disastrous interview denoting general BAME diversity in the cabinet is an example. There’s never been a movement united to completely abolish BAME from the conversation. I decided it was time and that’s why I started the #AbolishBAME campaign. I want these discussions forward into the mainstream. 

“Britain may not be as racist as the USA, but having less racism means that there is still racism. Race tensions have been bubbling under the surface for a long time in the UK and it’s long overdue that people recognise it exists. The government needs to lead the way, as it should, and remove the term from future legislation on racial inequality policies and all government departments. Vague terms should be discouraged, with specifically referring to target ethnic groups instead.

“I am mixed Black Caribbean and Polish, and I’m proud of that.”

‘I felt like my whole identity and rich Ashanti culture is now null and void’

Kofi Owusu Frimpong, President of Royal Holloway Conservative Association, told The Tab despite the mistakes used by MPs in his party, many Conservatives see the term as “wholly inadequate.”

“When I came to Britain from Ghana at the age of seven, I felt like my whole identity and rich Ashanti culture was now null and void. I’ve once been asked for an opinion on educational attainment for all ‘BAME’ people and that really annoyed me because it implied that as a black man I was the voice of a wonderfully diverse group of people and this really highlighted the lack of acknowledgment for every different minority.

“Indians and Pakistanis, for example, have more opportunities than Black Caribbean, African, and Bangladeshi people. Unless each ethnicity is regarded and referenced in accordance with their own individual struggles and obstacles then real social mobility would not be achieved and systematic negligence would continue by using the hyper-inflated statistics of BAME attainment. 

“All political parties have used BAME to generalise and have issued statements where they believe their party is the ‘Messiah’ for all these people. When the term is abolished, they will be required to be more specific and engage in meaningful conversations rather than buzzwords that lead nowhere. And that’s the message I want to get across. The term BAME is just a politically correct way of saying ‘others’ – a phrase used by the most despicable of colonialists to dehumanise non-whites. If people really want to see effect change then that phrase has to go. 

“I am Black West African (Ashanti) something my ancestors have been for the last 300 plus years in Ghana.”

‘I’d be rich if I had a penny for the number of times I’ve had ‘Ni Hao’ said to me’

Owner of Bee Influencer Viv Yau told The Tab that the term BAME stems from a wider systemic issue that drives racism towards East Asians. “There is a problematic misconception that all Asians are one monolithic block. For example, East & South East Asian communities are experiencing more hate crimes due to the virus. I’d be rich if I had a penny for the number of times I’ve had ‘Ni Hao’ said to me. It’s from these small microaggressions to violent hate crimes towards East & South East Asians that shows we absolutely need further distinction and individual representation between Asian groups, far away from the term BAME as possible.

“Matt Hancock’s statement screams white privilege, which ultimately fails to acknowledge so many wider issues faced by marginalised communities such as poverty, education, negative bias in the workplace, and medical care. It’s problematic that people think if there is a non-white person then the BAME box is ticked. A non-black person of colour could never understand the lived experience of a black person. 

“My experience as a Chinese person varies from a Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Bangladeshi person. So data-driven representation should represent that. Rather than just labeling us all as BAME. As a British Born Chinese person, I cannot speak on behalf of all Asians and their own experiences. 

“I am British Born Chinese. So call me British Born Chinese.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

David Lammy called Amazon out for using the N-word to describe a pair of shoes

• ‘I went from a B to a fail’: Scottish students on their results being moderated down

All the times world politics was actually just a scene from The Thick Of It