‘BAME’: Why it is so problematic for Ethnic Minority communities


The acronym BAME has been deemed unsuitable following the publication of an industry report undertaken by The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The abbreviation BAME, which stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, is no longer appropriate when identifying individuals from ethnic minorities.

The report was produced by The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media, a Birmingham City University-based research centre that aims to bring knowledge and expertise of media professionals and academics in order to look at representation in the industry.

It states the collective word has been “used to hide failings in the representation of specific ethnic groups,” concluding, “a lack of trust within the phrase.”

Katrina Marshall, a member of The PRCA Race and Ethnicity Board, said the issue with the term was discussed within her committee long before the government decided to move away from the term.

Photo Credit: Katrina Marshall

She said:  “We as a board outright rejected the term BAME for many reasons. The term is very UK centric. No one I know from other countries have heard of the term or use it. Within each letter of the acronym, there is an infinite number of different cultures, languages and religions. Speaking for myself, it’s seen as a bit of pigeonholing.”

This was supported by findings in the industry report which proposed broadcasters eliminate the term in order to improve representation and diversity, by recognising the diverse experiences of individuals.

Those from ethnic minorities, like Bristol-based recruitment consultant Driscilla Standford, suggest that a ‘new language’ was required for discussing race.

She said: “I think it’s best to specify which ethnic group you’re discussing in certain topics because there is so much differences within these communities that get overlooked.”

Photo Credit: Driscilla Standford

The 22-year-old legal practice student went on to tell Eastside: “Some groups need specific support but they’re being hidden within a phrase so there is no change.”

The report mentions the abbreviation will be used in public speech and official papers.

According to Dr Pete Jones, a chartered psychologist, specialising in implicit bias testing, believes the use of the acronym still included in papers, comes into conflict with data that represents implicit bias.

He Said: “In terms of design and monitoring we struggle to get data and ‘BAME’  can be used to disguise or mute the effects of biased systems.”

Photo Credit: Dr Pete Jones

The Yorkshireman said he has submitted a number of freedom of information requests to policing institutions, for details on senior leadership recruitment, staffing and selection.

He said:Policing has shown improvements in the comparative pass rates of ‘BAME’ communities in recruiting, but the reality is that some groups , notably people of Asian Pakistani background continue to suffer disparity while the world slaps the police service on the back for the ‘BAME’ success.“

When it comes to categorising Britain’s ethnic groups, an appropriate answer will not be discovered according to Katrina Marshall, because one “does not exist.”

She said: “The aim is to not get caught up in trying to come up with a term that precisely defines one’s identity, but rather recognise the ways people in Britain are put at a structural disadvantage because of their race.”


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