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Voluntary Action Leeds will no longer use the phrase BAME

VAL’s thoughts on the terms BAME, BME (and Poc, WoC, BIPOC etc) are both interesting – and worth sharing.

If you use, work or volunteer in projects that work alongside or seek model solidarity with racialised groups (migrant or otherwise) this has to be worth a discussion with friends, colleagues, fellow volunteers – and definitely worth taking to your Management and Trustees…

To all Staff, Volunteers & Trustees

VAL’s  Equality & Diversity Committee met last week & discussed VAL’s use of the term BAME.

As part of this discussion we looked at different current views around this terminology ( these “views” were researched, some has been included at the end of this E-Mail). At the end of this discussion we were certain that we should no longer be using the phrase BAME.

As a consequence a statement was agreed and this statement has now been agreed by VAL’s Board and is as follows:

  1. That VAL no longer uses the term BAME.
  2. That we consult with other organisations, including the existing BME network, about the term to be used in referring to the many communities of Leeds.
  3. That in the meantime we use the term “Diverse Communities”, to replace all other terms, and we take the lead in suggesting that this is the term which should be used from now, whilst acknowledging that the use of language is constantly changing.
  4. That should the BME Network choose to adopt a different name to refer to their own network, we will follow that lead when referring to that network.

We are therefore asking all VAL staff, volunteers and Trustees to agree to this statement and to no longer use the phrase BAME and where possible to update articles etc.

The following is some of the researched views that was discussed when making this decision.

BAME – which is an acronym for Black, Asian, minority ethnic – is a term that is now widely accepted by the media and the corporate world. But, while BAME and BME were born out of a desire to create solidarity between minorities against racism, the term is now more readily used by white people to lump everyone who is not white into a singular category.

The same can be said for POC – People Of Colour, WOC – Women Of Colour, and BIPOC – Black and Indigenous People Of Colour, which are all even more vague in who they are referring to. Many of these acronyms and unifying terms were originally created by minority groups who used them to signal a unity against discrimination, violence and inequality. But, over time they have been co-opted and their political meanings have been sanitised and flattened. For many critics, these terms no longer signal unity. Instead, they signal a lazy homogenisation of all non-white groups, and the erasure of individual struggles. And it is the laziness that really grates. Specifically when ‘BAME’ is used where ‘Black’ could have been used in its place. And using the acronym to refer to specifically Black issues smacks of anti-Blackness.

When Matt Hancock was asked recently on Sky News how many Black people are in the current cabinet, he responded by saying, ‘Well, there’s a whole series of people from a black and ethnic minority background.’ Hancock must have been referring to the two members of the cabinet of South Asian heritage, Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak, because there are zero Black cabinet members.

BAME can also be used to hide the realities of systemic inequalities, and fudge diversity stats for certain institutions. Oxford University, for example, will frequently cite their admissions figures for BAME students (which was 22% in 2019), but it can be harder to find the admissions figures for Black students, which are consistently minuscule in comparison (3.1% in 2019). Hiding behind BAME can mask the true inequalities that Black people face, and present a falsely optimistic picture of progress

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