Every time I hear the acronym BME it irritates me. I have been reflecting on why. Surely, it should be no different from any other category I fit in.
Could it be because it generalises and masks the real challenges faced by someone like me, a woman belonging to an ethnic minority in the UK?
The term makes it easier to believe that one solution fits all. It is easier to deal with those who are different from ourselves by putting them into a single category. It also makes it easier for us to dislike them.
Using BAME, for example, helps to desensitise our response to “them” as human beings. Thinking of “them” as individuals who have wants, needs and dreams like all of us would mean accepting them in our lives, our communities and our country.
A colleague working in the Civil Service reminded me that BME is no longer in use. She proudly told me that it was replaced by BAME. Perhaps by way of reassuring me that “Asian” is now included; that my brown skin and my Indian background have been considered by the powers-that-be.
Since the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been an increase in BAME-focused campaigns in organisations, typically led by a Black professional. It’s great that there is an increased focus on Diversity & Inclusion, but I wonder if these organisations have asked what colleagues from ethnic minorities think?
Individuality is lost in an acronym, with the potential of causing more harm to communities and groups where identity is already a crisis. With different ethnicities come different beliefs, cultures and practices. We all have these, irrespective of our skin colour.
I recently read this article and I take some comfort in knowing that people are talking about the term BAME.
Here is a challenge for you. Approach someone who is of a different ethnicity from yourself and ask a simple question such as “Do you like cake?” and see where the conversation goes.