Why the term BAME is falling out of favour
We are sure that you have encountered the term ‘BAME’, to collectively describe people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. It has been commonly used since the 1990s and we have used it at Go Construct.
However, in recent years there has been significant debate about whether ‘BAME’ is still fit for purpose. Several leading organisations, such as the BBC and Gov.UK, have stopped using it and published their reasons why.
Here we explain more about what has happened to ‘BAME’, and how construction and ethnicity can perhaps be better served by a different form of language.
Where did ‘BAME’ originate?
The acronym BAME originated from the 1991 UK Census as a way of classifying and grouping people who were not from the white ethnic group. The main non-white classifications were Black-Caribbean, Black-African, Black-Other, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese. People from an ethnic background that did not belong to any of these categories were listed as ‘any other ethnic group’. ‘Black, Asian and minority ethnic’, abbreviated to BAME, began to be used as a collective term as a way of describing people who did not identify as White.
Why the term ‘BAME’ is no longer being used
As the UK population has grown in diversity, and the need to acknowledge the unique character of under represented minority ethnic groups has become more important, the catch-all term of ‘BAME’ has fallen out of favour. It was always a term that was used more as a form of categorisation by politicians, officials and the media than as something that ethnic minorities positively identified with themselves; in recent years there have been suggestions that ‘BAME’ lacked nuance and actually did individual ethnicities, nationalities and cultures a disservice. It defined people more by what they weren’t, than what they were.
With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the stories of the Windrush generation, it was felt that the experience of ethnic minorities of injustice and oppression demanded a new kind of language.
Although ‘BAME’ is no longer used by many organisations, it has not been replaced by another interchangeable label. The following terms are the most common post-BAME ways of collectively describing people of non-white ethnic backgrounds:
- Black, Asian and ethnic minorities
- Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups
- Black, Asian and ethnic groups
- Black, Asian and ethnically diverse
Recommendations and best practices
On the Go Construct website, you may still find historic references to BAME, in attributed quotations and the names of organisations, but where possible we will no longer use the BAME term. Instead of BAME, we would recommend replacing it with the alternative terms above, or if describing individual ethnicities, using the more specific term, eg. Black British, or Asian British.
Learn more about how you can help make construction more diverse today
Find out more about what construction is doing to improve ethnic diversity in the industry, and the networks that are available to support and promote diversity in construction.