Opinion

I am not your BAME person

Greg Clarke, the chairman of the Football Association had to resign after forgetting we are no longer in the sixties and referring to ‘coloured’ football players. He was by no means alone in his terrible use of language: the BBC aired the N-word before the watershed; we have a Prime Minister who described Commonwealth citizens as ‘piccaninnies‘; and it was just last year that member of parliament Angela Smith got so tongue-tied she created the new category – people of a ‘funny tinge’. No matter the black squares or BLM empty promises the truth is that neither mainstream politicians, public figures or institutions are comfortable talking about diversity. It is about time heads started to roll for the continued ignorance. But for all the absurdity we have witnessed, James Cleverly, Conservative Party MP (surely one of the least appropriately named people of all time), managed to trump them all when he spoke for all ‘BAME people’ in defence of chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Being Black and part of a deeply racist Conservative party is bound to cause an identity crisis but Fanon must be rolling in his grave at the thought of someone being so out of touch they embrace Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME). The term captures everything that is wrong with top approaches and people only use it because it is the language of funding applications.

Since the mother country has had to deal with the children of the former colonies we have gone through various incarnations. At first we were all just ‘coloured immigrants‘ who needed to be prevented from coming to Britain. When it was obvious we were here to stay we were lumped together as politically ‘black’. When we pushed back and explained were not all the same Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) came in and we have finally arrived at BAME to make sure that Asian people are fully represented in the acronym. But the reality is that these are all just different ways to say ‘non-White’ and that really means ‘non-normal’, which is not a long stretch from the ‘non-human’ status that was necessary for slavery and colonialism. BAME brings an instinctual rejection because it is the denial of your personhood.

Embracing BAME as your identity goes beyond wearing a White mask and means tumbling fully into the ‘psychosis of Whiteness’ where you have to rely on delusions to hold you together. But it goes further than just words and identity – Cleverly represents a generation of ‘BAME people’ who may well have convinced themselves they are angels of progress but are actually doing the devil’s work.

Kemi Badenoch in her position as Equalities Minister and during a debate on Black History Month downplayed Britain’s role in the enslavement of African people and suggested that teaching Critical Race Theory and White privilege should be illegal in schools. Priti Patel is the Brown face of one of the most racist immigration agenda’s ever seen in Britain. If you believe it is a coincidence her predecessor in this brazen government was also Asian then you may be interested in the email I got from a Nigerian prince who wants to use your bank account to transfer millions of dollars. Rishi ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ Sunak may well be the next Prime Minister of the UK, the perfect PR move for the Tories once the disaster of Brexit plays out. Tony Sewell, who has repeatedly dismissed the role of racism in society and blamed Black mothers for the problems facing young Black men, has been tasked with a Race Disparity Audit. I mean he even looks a bit like Uncle Ruckus. The less said about Uncle Trevor Phillips the better.

How we identify is essential to how we understand the world. Taking my cue from James Baldwin ‘I am not your Negro’, nor am I ‘coloured’ and I am most definitely not your BAME person. I am Black, not because the state, media or society has made me that way but because I choose to identify with the heritage that connects me to Africa and the Diaspora. To do so means understanding that the struggle against racism is just as life and death today as it ever was. It means being vaccinated against the appeals of becoming an Uncle Tom, no matter how valuable the rewards. So it’s not enough to just reject the term BAME, we must discard all it represents and all who represent it.

4 comments

  1. Malcolm X told us to get up off our knees, straighten up our backs and look our oppressor square in the eye to remind them that they’re dealing with their equal. Only a newborn is helpless in taking on any old name given it, but as that child becomes of age and knows its own mind, it determines for itself whether to keep the name proudly, remix it or change to something that resonates more with him/her. Sadly we’re behaving like hapless helpless newborns and children without their own mind by accepting these revolving terms of references.

  2. Where I live the majority of residents who are not white are the original residents of this land and, to my understanding, prefer to be addressed as “First Nations citizens” or “Indigenous Persons”. Sometimes it seems likely that there would need to be a collective noun for people who are not white when, for example, you refer to the conditions of racism and poverty that so many non-white people are oppressed by. Is there such a collective phrase or how should it be phrased. This is a sincere question from someone who wishes to address others respectfully.

  3. “What’s in a name” and who has the power to do the naming? The opening move made in all modes of racist classification is precisely that; the imposition of an external class(ification) onto a person, that is, to seperate the person’s body from their soul, to deny their humanity and leave only some form of subanimate body, as object, to be classified. It’s not what’s found ‘naturally occurring’ anywhere in human reality, in neither the time nor the space of history and geography; but, it is what the “slave maker” was paid to “produce” for that unique and ideologically specific taxonomy of chattel slavery; and, thereby, the globalised system of wealth extraction accumulation and exploitation, which, remains in urgent need of Reparation. “What’s in a name?”

    “We refuse to be, what you wanted us to be, we are what we are, and that’s the way it’s going to be”

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