In every post I write, I try to explain my thoughts & feelings on how various actions that are seemingly good intentioned can actually lead to uncomfortable feelings for minorities, and one thing that I have always struggled to get on board with is classifications or categorisations. In all honesty, the subject upsets me, and I’ll explain why.
The acronym BAME is quite unique to the UK and has become more popular in politics, media, and other high profile areas of society in recent years. BAME stands for “Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic”, and explicitely excludes white minorities within the UK such as Welsh. Any other white individuals are classified as “White – Non British”.
I understand why this term was invented, and statistics can help us with this. (Forgive me if these numbers aren’t entirely accurate, I had to look at many different sources online all with different data points. I have no intention to mislead and I’m happy to correct them if anything is vastly different so please do let me know!)
Approximately 0.65% of the population in the UK are “Mixed British – White & Black Caribbean” (or “Other” if the company you’re dealing with doesn’t use Government standards), but being classified as BAME makes me a part of a 10-12% group of people, and therefore anyone classified as BAME seems more important because the classification caters for a larger number of the population. Collectively it is easier to include everyone and not offend anyone, as there’s always the get-out clause of this person being in the BAME group.
I agree that this can have some positive impacts to emphasise issues in society, but they’re not as great as anyone outside of the BAME classification thinks.
Lets just revisit the definition for a moment and let its true meaning sink in. The literal definition of BAME is “the non-white people”/”the people that never natively existed here” and is apparently a perfectly acceptable term in society. Successive Governments have done a really good job of elegantly describing people of colour without using the word “colour”. Is it really surprising that phrases such as “those foreigners keep coming over here…” and “keep ’em out” are popular in the UK?.
On that note, if this is the first time you’ve visited then check out my recent post to hear about the common misconceptions I hear so frequently. So much so, that my white fiancé is so overwhelmed with anger and upset for me that it can ruin her day, whilst I just sit there perfectly comfortable, unphased because it’s just life.
Simply put, BAME is not a classification I wish to be associated with and it’s disrespectful. Ask any person of colour and most, if not all, will tell you that they do not identify as BAME. The term BAME may not seem like a big deal as an outsider but picture this…
You’re 5 years old. You live next door to a child the same age as you. You go to the same school, and you’re such good friends that you both tactically choose the same university options and land a place on the same course at the same location. You both finish your degrees with the same grade and land yourself successful roles in the same industry. You have a hard day of work so you put your feet up to rest and switch on the news. For some reason the politicians, the news broadcasters, and everyone else you can see on TV are verbally stamping a label on your head every time they speak. Why? Because your skin is brown. Your friend on the otherhand is doing exactly the same thing, but they fit in with a large majority of society and they fall asleep with ease ready for the next day without the overwhelming feeling of being different, and for you, as this term is used so widely on such a frequent basis, it’s hard to open your front door without feeling that you’re different.
So far we’ve only touched on my personal views, we haven’t even begun to discuss the individuals that are included in the BAME classification. Every single person in this classification is so unique for a variety of reasons, but we simply feel unimportant right now. Black, Japanese, and Indian people are the same according to this definition, and if we take recent topical subjects such as the BAME community suffering more severely from COVID-19, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that each of these three groupings have entirely different DNA, and therefore each needs different attention and tailored solutions.
But isn’t “People of Colour” the same?
There are a variety of views on this but I don’t personally think so. To me, BAME reads as ‘Black, Asian, etc., etc.” and it includes the word “minority” which isn’t exactly a term you associate with positive references. “People of Colour” effectively groups the same people, but it doesn’t try to pretend that our ethnicities can be generalised, it’s not an ethnic grouping within statistics, and it’s often used as a positive alternative to people using ‘coloured’ or ‘brown’ in a slight hush tone, which still happens today.
We can’t really describe my family without using percentages which is a horrible way to describe someone, but it’s factual I guess.
Stacey is white, I’m 50% white & 50% black Caribbean, and our daughter is statistically 75% white & 25% black Carribean (if my Maths is any good on the weekend?). With Stacey being white, she has a hair routine commonly found in the UK, whilst our daughter’s hair is extremely curly and needs an extreme amount of attention to stay healthy – very similar to how my black family would need to attend to their hair. In fact, we have to buy her hair products online because barely any shops in the UK stock anything suitable! Mine on the otherhand is a nightmare in other ways, and if I left it to grow it would grow into an afro, but it also grows in all sorts of directions where a fully black person’s hair wouldn’t! It’s an absolute nightmare to cut, and I’m always sure to never annoy Stacey on the night I need to cut my hair or she might dare to not finish the job one day – I just simply can’t cut the hair near my crown evenly whilst the rest of my head is fine! This is just one way how all three of us have different needs, and there are so many everyday examples that I could talk to you about. These subtle differences are constantly on our minds and shape our behaviours massively.
So what should we call you?
Call me Aaron. In times where we really do need to recognise ethnicity, let’s just continue with Mixed – Black Caribbean & White British. This accurately describes me, it explicitely identifies that I’m British, and although I could technically have been born in a British Overseas Territory under this classification, we’re more likely to have an interesting conversation about how Anguilla is literally so small that you can see the sea left & right when you drive down the middle!