October is Black History Month in the UK, an event that has been celebrated nationwide for more than 30 years. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know about it until I was at university when I was 19. I’m a little worried about writing this post – I’m always conscious that I don’t want to be seen to be talking over the important voices in the movement. This is something that I have wrestled with for 10 years. My undergraduate and post-graduate studies focussed on looking into institutional racism within the UK. But I was incredibly aware that I was a white person studying this (a major privilege) and never put myself out there to really engage with the discourse.
As the years have gone by, I have become a little more comfortable in being an effective ally. I have tried to discuss widely, to understand different perspectives within various ethnic communities, especially trying to understand religion and culture. I’ve been keen to educate myself and not expect a community to teach me. It is not their responsibility, but mine. This is an attitude I have regarding any difference from myself.
The ‘A’ in ‘BAME’ means Asian, which, in itself, is a very broad term. Does it mean ‘South Asian’, ‘East Asian’, ‘South East Asian’, ‘Indian’, ‘Pakistani’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Thai’, ‘Vietnamese’? The list goes on.
— Nicole Miners, BBC
I admit that for several years I have used the terms BME and then BAME. I felt I was being inclusive and understanding. But this year, I have been introduced to #BAMEover. I feel uncomfortable that I have also squashed all ‘non-white’ people into one acronym, and I am actively trying to stop this.
The excellent Myira Khan is someone who speaks about these kinds of discussion points. She can be found on Twitter as @Myira_Khan. I leave the final word of this short piece to her: “BAME erases identity”.