Nighat Sahi

Published 26 May 2023

BAME no Longer Acceptable

As recently as 2020, the acronym BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) was in frequent use, even more so than before at that time, when it came to reporting racial disparity in respect of Covid health issues.

However, by 31 March 2021, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities had published a report in which it found that terms like BAME were “no longer helpful and should be dropped”. Instead, the report recommended, there should be a focus on understanding disparities and outcomes for specific ethnic groups. In its response to the report in March 2022, the Government agreed and made a commitment to no longer use the term ‘BAME’.

Why does this matter?

‘BAME’ is a generic catch-all term, used to group all ethnic minorities together. But different ethnic groups are by very definition different from one other. Lumping them all together into one group ignores their different perspectives and experiences and results in exclusion. Indeed, certain groups are excluded from the term BAME such as Roma.

The Government’s Civil Service blog sites education as an example of how generic terms can exacerbate disparity issues by referring to 2019 when “higher than average percentage of children in state-funded schools from Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi groups achieved strong passes in English and Maths GCSEs”. The blog points out that if such results are attributed to one generic BAME group, this creates an inaccurate picture of how successful other ethnic groups within the BAME definition are performing.

Of course, changing the terminology on its own is not enough to improve inclusion and eradicate discrimination and disparity but reporting on news and issues around ethnic minorities with sensitivity and accuracy has an essential role to play in the process.

What’s the alternative?

The Government’s recommendation is that, “wherever possible, we should use the specific ethnic classifications of the census. Where it is absolutely necessary to group together people from different ethnic minority backgrounds, we should say ‘ethnic minorities’ or ‘people from ethnic minority backgrounds’”.

As always, we will keep you informed of any developments. But if you’d like more information or to discuss the implications for you, please get in touch.

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