We have listened to our communities, and intend to stop using the term "BAME" and equivalent acronyms
Following a call to action from the Black Creative Network, the Belgrade Theatre has heard the voices of the Black community and has taken the decision to end the use of the terms “BAME”, “BAMER” and “POC (Person of Colour)” in its communications, both public-facing and internal.
We acknowledge that, in the short-term, the acronym may still appear in some official documents we are currently required to use, and that there are complex conversations still to be had about how this will affect the way we talk about our work. However, we hope that in publicly stating our intention to make this change, we will encourage other organisations to follow suit, ultimately building towards the eradication of the term across our industry.
The Black Creative Network is a group of Black artists based in the West Midlands. Following the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the world, the group has come together to advocate for change in the arts industry.
The four main problems it has identified with the term “BAME” and similar acronyms are as follows:
- Although originally intended to refer to groups of people as a means of measuring diversity across organisations, it has since come to be used to refer to individuals, e.g. describing someone as “a BAME person” as opposed to “a Black person”. This strips away people’s individual identities and encourages us to see those who are not white British as a single, homogeneous group.
- By assigning a single collective identity to the vast range of racial, cultural and ethnic groups currently living in the UK, it assumes that all of these groups share broadly similar experiences, challenges and barriers to representation. The truth is far more complex. We believe that in order to properly identify and address the needs of each of these diverse groups, we must begin to treat them as separate and distinct. For this reason, we will not be replacing “BAME” with an equivalent umbrella term.
- It reinforces the assumption of white British as the “norm” or default. Creating a single category for all other racial, ethnic and cultural groups is inherently Otherising to anyone who is not classed as white British.
- It conflates physical characteristics with geographic identity. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic are not equivalent terms. Where “Asian” describes people with heritage from a particular part of the world, “Black” refers solely to a skin colour, and encompasses people from a huge number of different races, cultures and nationalities across the globe. By separating out the different groups currently covered by the term “BAME”, we hope to create room for all of them to highlight, share and celebrate their specific regional and cultural identities.
The Belgrade Theatre has a long history of close collaboration with its communities, of amplifying their voices and bearing witness to their stories and experiences. It has always been important to us to provide a space where all of the people who make up our city feel seen and supported, and now more than ever, we want to listen to and act upon the requests of those who currently do not.
We believe that people have a right to define their cultural identities on their own terms, and that the industry should respond to this, instead of imposing its own jargon on marginalised groups. As an industry that is centred on listening to people and telling their stories, theatre and the arts should lead the way in reshaping the conversation around diversity.
The West Midlands is not only one of the UK’s most culturally and ethnically diverse regions, but has historically been a region of pioneers, both in industry and in the arts. We are proud to build on that legacy now, and we hope that our decision will serve as a catalyst for change, inspiring similar conversations across the country.
We acknowledge that this is only the first step on a long journey. This is a statement of intent: we know there is more work to do, and we look forward to continuing the conversation with marginalised artists to create a more welcoming and inclusive space for all.