The Citz Storytellers are launching the next phase of their No Box No Label campaign, which looks at the acronym BAME and why it should no longer be used. Read about the campaign here »

Sameera Joseph – of the No Box No Label campaign – writes here about the acronym, and what it means to the Citz Storytellers…

Sameera Joseph of No Box No Label

Why BAME? Why not just call it as it is!

At current, the term BAME has taken a new high with reports of BAME people being more affected by COVID 19 and considered to be at a ‘much greater risk’ than others. Who is the other? What does BAME actually mean? The Cambridge Dictionary defines BAME to be an abbreviation for Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups who are ‘not white’. So, ‘white’ is the other. White is the norm, ‘the default’, meaning that I like many others are considered to be BAME being of mixed ethnic decent and not white. What does that mean for me? Less opportunities and more discrimination from society. So much so, that even Mr COVID is threatening to take me out. In fact as reported by ITV News, recent studies in the UK show that I – Sameera, of Black and Asian descent – am twice more likely to contract the virus than my counterparts and suffer at its hand. Is that true or is it just society’s structural disadvantages that has increased my risk?

According to the term, it sounds like its ‘us’ against them, them being ‘white’ people. If that were true, why do I feel like Black people have had such a tough time with little backing from their so called BAME team members. I say this because even my Asian family shunned me for being half Black. Having me meant that my mum went up against the taboo of being with a Black man, my dad. Although some people don’t share this view, this discrimination still exists. And who was it created by? In Asian culture, there exists a caste system brought by the arrival of ‘fair skinned Aryans’ into India, essentially white people who separated people into occupational categories, those of darker complexion being at the very bottom. This hierarchal ideology is still present in today’s society. Dark being represented in a negative way and light being held in glory, people of BAME descent being categorised and less desirable for particular occupations. So why group people who do not stand for the same things and have completely different life struggles?

Although I am not either/or, but both Black and Asian, you’d think I’d like the grouping of both my backgrounds, but I don’t like it. Black and Asian people share different beliefs and have many different experiences. With that being said, I am a mixture of both, I am mixed race and that again comes with its own experience. So again I ask, why are we being grouped and not recognised as we are? By doing this, would you not agree that the ‘other’, the ‘white man’ is taking away our individuality and disguising the disparity within society emphasising that white people are the ‘main course’ and that as the ‘side dish’, we don’t have our own stories to tell. This way they don’t need to attend to our individual problems. For example, if I go to an interview and ask how many Black people are represented within the company, the usual reply is that the company is working to increase the BAME representation. Does that answer my question? Or am I being palmed off so that society’s racial problems are again silenced and not addressed.

I believe the term BAME latches onto the overarching arm of white supremacy that controls the way people operate. It is a representation of the idealisms of British people centuries back, who thought they could own people and take away their identity by taking away their rights as humans, as individuals. The term is a mockery of these individual groups especially Black people who it highlights first. It is a reminder that although we have lost the chains, the control is still there. Slavery still exists. So perhaps if I look at my occupation and the risks that comes with the job itself and not where I am from, this could be the result of my increased risk of COVID-19 and not my being Black and Asian, BAME?

– Sameera Joseph