Last week, the Equality Policy Unit at the University of Leeds held a student-led panel discussion centered around the role of language in equality and diversity. The panel featured students from the University of Leeds, Cassio Dimande, Shiler Mahmoudi and Jae Eniraiyetan and Ana-Sofia Velasco. The discussion was centered around the use of the term ‘BAME’, which refers to the category Black Asian Minority Ethnic. The panel discussed their perception of the term and what it means to them.
The students led a thought-provoking discussion about the term BAME, and its connotations. All of the students on the panel agreed that the term BAME is not appropriate to use for multiple reasons.
Jae Eniraiyetan, a final year Physics and Philosophy student described it as “A way to categorise everyone that’s not white”, expressing how she felt that the term was simply used to distinguish between people who were and were not white, due to the term’s failure to represent all of the different ethnic minorities that fall within it. Shiler Mahmoudi, a final year Politics student, echoed this point by describing her thoughts that the term was
“setting whiteness as a norm and dumping us together all as one”. Ana- Sofia Velasco, a final year PPE student also articulated her concerns with this aspect of the term saying, “I feel quite uncomfortable with the fact that my experience is being reduced to not white”.
Many students also felt that it was problematic to rely on a term that had been created by people who are not categorised within it. There was a consensus that the students barely used the term to refer to themselves, reflecting how the term is predominantly used by those outside of it. Shiler advised that people should “call us what we call ourselves”. Many
students stated that they would simply refer to themselves by stating what countries they are originally from or where their parents are from.
Ana made the point that ‘BAME’ fails to acknowledge the significant differences between people that fall within the term saying; “It’s important to recognise that some people who are BAME are not subject to the same discrimination as others”. Shiler furthered this point by acknowledging that “If you break down BAME, in all non-Black ethnicities there is anti-
Blackness”. The label can therefore be perceived to be actively contributing towards the undermining of the struggles faced by Black people, by categorising all non-white ethnicities together. Aside from this, the students all commented on the differences in language and culture that set people classified as BAME apart.
Many of the students spoke positively about the University of Leeds’ approach to issues regarding ethnicity. Cassio said that “the union does a good job; I can speak to officers at any time and bring issues forward any time I’ve got feedback”. Ana also stated that “The University is making some great leaps and bounds”. Shiler expressed that she thought “It’s good what the University has been doing”.
Overall students were happy with the steps being taken by the University and suggested that in order to make further progress the University should keep the conversation about issues of race going. The students agreed that they wished to see more discussions around the term BAME and its use by the University, including having more people involved in these discussions. Shiler gave specific advice that the University should create a “top-down
approach, reaching out to students to let them know they can get engaged if they want to and let them know where to go if they need to”.