Mind your language

The problem with ‘bame’

25 September 2021

9:00 AM

25 September 2021

9:00 AM

In its coverage of the shuffled cabinet, the BBC added a note: ‘BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) is a term widely used in the UK to describe people of non-white descent, as defined by the Institute of Race Relations.’

The Institute of Race Relations was founded in 1958, but in 1972, by its own account, it became ‘an anti-racist thinktank’ and began to focus on ‘direct analyses of institutionalised racism in Britain’.

Earlier this year, its director Liz Fekete complained about the government indicating it would abolish, as recommended by the Sewell report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, the concept of BAME in data collection. Among the crimes of the Sewell report, she said, was to tell ‘Black and minority ethnic communities that they too should fly the Union flag with pride’.

So here we have ‘Black and minority ethnic’, and never mind the Asians. The institute’s official list of definitions does include both ‘Black and Minority Ethnic’ or ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic’ to describe ‘people of non-white descent’.

Only in 2014 did the Oxford English Dictionary incorporate a draft entry for BAME, defining it as ‘black, Asian, and minority ethnic’. It came under initialisms beginning with B (suggesting each letter is given its name: ‘bee-a-em-ee’). But I usually hear bame now as an acronym rhyming with Auntie Mame.

Liz Fekete is well aware of hatred of white minorities too, and has written about xenoracism, which covers foreigners such as Poles. She belonged to the collective of the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism until its demise in 2003. It had in the 1990s fallen out with Searchlight, the anti-racist magazine, over allegations that Searchlight was promoting pro-Zionist or pro-Israeli groups that the CARF Collective regarded as racist. Its editor at the time, Gerry Gable, had left the Communist party in 1962 because of its hostility to Israel.

Anyway, no one who is white, be they Travellers, Jews, Romanians or Irish, is covered by the BBC-IRR definition of Bame. I get the impression that bame is too lame to last much longer.

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