I am not BAME

I am not BAME

I’m Indian, Asian, British, Sikh, English, British- Asian (on a form) and I’m from Kent… but would never normally just say I am BAME, person of colour or certainly not an ethnic minority…

I read recently that ethnic minority in itself is a narrative we’ve been told. Its a fair point. Globally people of colour aren’t a minority. Here a better term is that we’re underrepresented

I do sometimes use BAME because it exists and I want to recognise the experiences beyond those that are white in the UK. Especially when I am talking about the experiences of women as race is relevant. And movements of feminism that miss difference fail us.

Interestingly enough when the wonderful Jemma Fairclough-Haynes shared insights from the Women and Work All Parlimentary Party Working Group, with the Fierce Project Management Movement – we spoke about the impact of COVID19 on working women, including BAME women… (in line with what the APPG spoke about), some people saw it as “what about white women” or that we were exclusively going to be talking about these underrepresented communities… that’s a useful conversation too but this was just *including*… (It was a fab fierce talk by the way of really important topics with so much work to be done for women AND women that are ‘BAME’ especially)

But BAME is lazy. Using it in the context of COVID, for example, masks that black, Pakistani and Bangledeshi communities are most at risk of death. And doesn’t tell us the why. There will be some commonalities but differences too.

It also allows the government and organisations to say they are doing ok when they have *some* ‘BAME’ representatives or can choose leads who aren’t black to actually lead on issues effecting black lives (for example).

Sometimes I do want to talk about shared experiences for “women of colour” but of course recognising its nuanced and my experiences aren’t the same as a black woman for example.

If we’re not white in the UK there is something shared though because we’re underrepresented . I thought maybe “not white” would be a better term a while ago – then I read “Why I’m Not Talking To White People About Race” and Reni Eddo-Lodge eloquently pointed out that we don’t want to be defined by something we are “not”. Absolute #truth and I realised that centred whiteness. (If you’ve not read it, DO make the time to – it’s a hugely enlightening read)

By the way, a recent survey (2020) by HR Data Hub showed in their sample- 70% of BAME employees had a salary at the bottom levels of less than £17k, whilst only 4% earned £50k or more. For women it is around 2%.

This paper also cites CIPD data from 2017 that shows that even though ‘BAME’ people represent 1/8th of the working population they only represent 1/16th of management positions. For women that will be less.

DATA matters and even better more nuanced data matters.

So it matters to keep understanding and advocating for people of colour, and women of colour recognising we have some shared experiences and shared challenges but that they are also very different. Stereotypes and biases effect us so differently. And we must advocate for the specifics too. Right now there is a real need to advocate for black lives.

(And yes in the context of Covid risks for Bangledeshi and Pakistani people too)

I’m searching for a better way to talk about that sembelence of shared experience being not white and then the intersection of being a woman in Britain – whilst not lumping us together and missing what makes our experiences still different.

Hmmm I’m pondering on it. What is the language? Do we even need it? 🤔

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