By S Neeraj Krishna
LABOUR MP Marsha de Cordova believes the party should “really move away” from using “a blob of the term BAME” to describe minority ethnic groups in the UK
Speaking at online Labour meet on Sunday (20), the shadow women and equalities secretary said the blanket categorisation under “BAME” (black, Asian and minority ethnic) reflected a “hierarchy of racism”, and failed to truly represent minority communities.
“Whilst I recognise that there are instances where the term is necessary, I’m of the belief in thinking that the use of such a term really does mask our identities and our differences, both racially, culturally, and so on,” said De Cordova.
“And for me personally, as a black woman, it is a term that I don’t use – in fact it is a term I very much reject. The frequency and the use of the term also, in my opinion, indicates a level of complacency.”
The Battersea MP added that she would prefer term “black” rather than BAME “in the political context”.
Referring to the raging pandemic, she said one cannot “talk about BAME people as has been done, without understanding, identifying and disaggregating” the underlying differences.
For instance, a young black man and a young Chinese woman will be “very different”, she noted, adding that they cannot be clubbed under “the same label”.
“It’s really important to understand that we’re absolutely more than just labels,” De Cordova stressed.
“If you are going to ask me the question ‘Are we done with the term BAME?’, I’m going to say – possibly.”
De Cordova also pointed to Health Secretary Matt Hancock brushing aside criticism that there were no by black MPs in the cabinet by highlighting that there was sufficient ‘BAME’ representation in June.
“He used the term BAME to describe the cabinet that was in place, that had enough BAME people in it, as opposed to there being no black people in that cabinet,” she said.
“And the ones that he mentioned — they are all Asian.”
She added that Hancock was “totally missing the point” as he had said “diversity of thought” was what mattered.
“We do need to really move away from just wanting to use a blob of the term BAME to describe us,” De Cordova told the panel, which included minority activists and leaders such as Runnymede Trust director Halima Begum, deputy London mayor Rajesh Agrawal and Hackney councillor Patrick Vernon.
Begum said she would “never advocate for a situation where we have colourblind policies where, in fact, you cannot track inequalities”.
“Without some ability to track the differences between our groups we wouldn’t know today that actually black African and black Caribbean and Bangladeshi groups were disproportionately hit by Covid and, in fact, it tells us whether they are living or dying,” she added.