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Theatre abandons use of ‘BAME’ term in Coventry

Some theatre officials declared officially that they will stop using the term BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), explaining it is outdated.

Coventry Belgrade Theatre said it decided after listening to local black artists who want to see the term eradicated across the industry, as the ethnic origin is identified by a specific history, ancestry, language and culture shared by a group of people, not by a word.

Echoing the reasons set out by Black Creative Network, the theatre explained its use "reinforces the assumption of white British as the 'norm' or default".

The move was "only the first step on a long journey", it added, as the term BME is another variation which is used to “represent” Black Minority Ethnic.

The theatre said it believed "people have a right to define their cultural identities on their own terms". Image credit NICOLA YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHY/BBC

Last month, UK students and artists explained why they felt the term - which originated in the '60s and '70s - was no longer relevant to them.

Corey Campbell, co-artistic director at the theatre, said the decision had already attracted criticism but he stood by it.

Setting out its "statement of intent", the theatre said the group of West Midlands-based artists identified several problems with the term and similar acronyms.

It said: "Although originally intended to refer to groups of people as a means of measuring diversity across organisations... it stripped away from people's identities and encourages us to see those who are not white British as a single, homogeneous group."

To assign a "single, collective identity to the vast range of racial, cultural and ethnic groups currently living in the UK, it assumed that all of these groups share broadly similar experiences as well as reinforcing the assumption of white British as the "norm" or default".

The term also "conflated physical characteristics with geographic identity... Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic are not equivalent terms", and “race” does not define the aspects of a person’s identity that is generally linked to their own of their ancestor’s homeland.

"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," the theatre added.

Image credit: Corey Campbell @Campbell1Corey via Twitter/BBC

“BAME” will no longer be used in the theatre public and internal communications, but its officials explained that they had to accept the fact that the acronym may still appear in some official documents they would be required to use.

Indeed, even if governmental data reports the need for an urgent action to be taken to tackle societal stigmas, however, the governmental action during the pandemic outbreak leaves much to be desired to achieve racial equality, but surely Coventry Belgrade Theatre has taken a step forward while listening and embracing its staff’s individual insights demands.


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