Staff BAME Network

Why do we call ourselves BAME?

All terms referring to racial or ethnic groups are always contentious and changing. Although the acronym ‘BAME’ is no different. The Staff BAME Network’s Steering Committee takes the view the network would do better to focus on issues of immediate importance to the lives of our members, rather than spending time debating the network’s name. The main point is to recognise that the term represents the network’s scope of inclusion, and is not an identity label that individuals use for themselves.

What are the problems with the term ‘BAME’?

1. Using a single term to refer to so many different groups runs the risk of erasing key differences between those groups, potentially making specific groups’ needs secondary to cross-group needs, even if the former are more pressing.

2. ‘Black’ and ‘Asian’ are emphasised in the acronym, potentially minimising the importance of all other minority ethnic groups; this is the reason given by the UK government style guide for avoiding the term.

3. The term ‘Minority Ethnic’ is maximally vague, and the inclusion of particular (especially white) ethnic groups is highly contentious; they are included in the definition of ‘BAME’ but are often excluded in the day-to-day use of the term.

The second and third points are arguably addressed by alternative ethnonyms such as ‘People of Color’/‘POC’, the ‘Global South’, the ‘Global Majority’, ‘visible minorities’, ‘non-whites’, or ‘racialised groups’. Each of these, however, raise their own issues, one being the first point about erasing intergroup differences. Of them all, the term ‘Global Majority’ is currently rising in favour in the UK, and is used by staff at the University of Glasgow, albeit with a definition that cycles back to BAME. 

 For now, we use ‘BAME’ as the designation for this Staff Network, in keeping with its the current usage in British English as many organisations, agencies, and the government in the UK use the term specifically to present information, statistics, and experiences related to racial and ethnic minorities. While this is not ideal, in the University of Edinburgh context where the numbers of relevant staff are so low, we believe that a Staff Network dedicated to our mutual support and advocacy is most effective when we come together under a single term. We are strongly supportive of and allied with any networks or other groups that advocate for more group-specific causes.