If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen that I started a poll this afternoon on (what appears to be) a new classification travelling across the Atlantic.
The sample size was only small and the poll is still ongoing, so this isn’t scientific by any stretch of the imagination, but just over 70% of those that voted had no clue what this term means. Neither did I until this morning!
Origin of BIPOC
Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour
BIPOC is now a commonly used term across America, in both continents rather than just the United States.
The reason behind this seems to be that those that are of a darker colour, or those with indigenous backgrounds, feel that they are misrepresented by the phrase “person of colour”.
This is great for those that feel that the classification now includes them if they didn’t feel included before – It’s not for me to answer as I don’t fit into either of these groups that have been added, but I have a genuine worry that this is what BAME has become in the UK, and it’s difficult to find positive reactions online from those within the community except for a few foundations or movements that promote this cause.
I strongly support the work that goes into these areas, after all, awareness is awareness. However, my issue is that this is still ultimately a classification, that is, a separation from the norm.
Shall I refer to you as BIPOC now?
Please don’t, I really don’t like it one bit. In previous articles I’ve suggested that “person of colour” is something I prefer, mostly because its objective and doesn’t represent negative connotations in the same way that other classifications have, but adding two examples of people of colour into this new acronym feels like a lazy attempt to make people feel included when it does exactly the opposite.
If you want to hear my experiences and thoughts in relation to BAME, please check out my previous post ‘BAME: The Reason My Family Will Never Be Normal‘, and to supplement this I have a new analogy for you.
Racism will always be relative, and you’ll never get away from classification.
Think of wealth for a moment. If overnight, everyone is told that they will receive £3,000/month to live on, people do not suddenly become less poor. Alright, they will for a couple of months, but pretty quickly costs of goods will skyrocket because organisations quickly realise that everyone has this income, and anyone that finds themselves with £10,000/month will be considered rich, whilst those that are on £3,000/month will be poor. We haven’t eradicated deprivation, we’ve simply shifted the scale. This has become significantly apparent in the housing market, where banks are willing to lend more, housing prices compared to an individual’s salary have massively increased over time.
Back to the subject at hand, if we suddenly develop a new classification to create inclusion for individuals, haven’t we just identified a new grouping for those that have the desire to be racist to create negative stereotypes towards? It’s already happening here in the UK unconsciously with the BAME classification. Rarely do you see an article with positive sentiment in the media towards those that fit into the BAME classification, you only ever see articles on how they are negatively impacted in politics, health, education, careers, wealth, and everyday living in society. For those that want to enforce their racist opinions, this simply strengthens it and gives the perception that BAME individuals aren’t equal.
There is no trickery here, at 19:30pm on 28th July 2020 shortly before releasing this article, I typed ‘BAME’ into Bing and hit the News button. This is the first set of results:
You can do this for yourself in your favourite search engine, and this less-positive sentiment continues for pages and pages, with all of these articles effectively referring to ‘the non-white people’ in this country.
Trying Too Hard
Whilst I appreciate that foundations, movements, and the media are trying to do what they can to promote inclusion in most respects, replacing one classification with another is not the answer.
Being classified is the root cause and will mean that, collectively, we will never be equal. After all, I never had a choice about being classified when I was born in the first place!
I also believe that there is a real fear in modern society of tackling racism head on, and because people are scared to speak directly and openly with individuals about colour or culture, new phrases are created in order to distance themselves away from the sensitivity surrounding these topics.
I am mixed raced, it’s a fact. Let’s talk about being mixed raced, not about how I am a BAME or BIPOC individual because these mean nothing and are too generic.
If I had to choose between two routes, I’d say that we’re more likely to see BIPOC+ before we see the real issue being addressed. You may laugh, but history repeats itself and how do you recover from the mistake of just including two examples of people of colour in an acronym?
Deciding a classification for an individual without the majority of those within the group having much of a say seems to be the new and fashionable ‘talking about you in a room’, but, the only time this will stop being an issue is when we stop generalising unique and interesting people because it’s easy to do so. I don’t expect this to happen, but I would love to be considered ‘normal’ in every situation I walk into before I leave this world.