To BAME or Not to BAME - The Trouble with Labels
We love labels we detest them, why do we even need labels? Let’s all be one, be united, we are all humans after all. However for some people, identity can be a political statement. Bringing various movements to the attention of the worlds stage. Hash tag nation.
One moment it seems that we are moving forward, striving towards equality and respecting others and then it feels like we take huge leaps backwards. BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) replaces the late BME (Black, Minority Ethnic) acronym. Discussing this with various friends and colleagues has brought mixed responses with most people either favouring the inclusivity element or in direct contrast, exclaiming ‘NO MORE LABELS!’. Which side you sit on to be politically correct now is like navigating a mine eld, albeit with a dictionary.
All these elements had to be considered when I was creating my brand. The unique selling point or the message needed to be succinct whilst encompassing the ethos of the artwork and my brand, celebrating wome of colour. The difficulty was how to be totally and holistically inclusive. Naturally I started with looking at Asia due to my own mixed Indian British heritage and the different terms for different regions, which was very interesting. In the UK when we talk about ‘Asian’ people we mean people from India and the surrounding countries. Whereas in America the term refers to people from China, Hong Kong, Japan and again, neighbouring countries.
Living with women of colour I asked for their views on their own identity and how they determine their own ‘label’. Interestingly culture plays a big part too. Han Yan identifies as Chinese. But moving to study in America encountered a whole new world of labels. When asked to join the Asian American Society, she questioned the purpose. However discussing the experiences of Asian’s in America, the need to be in a supportive network was important due to ingrained discriminatory factors within American culture both historically and now. In direct contrast, another friend views culture as an identity as opposed to colour in the first instance due to her mixed heritage.
So nothing is set in stone, depending on your location and era, different labels interchange depending on a number of factors: personal, political and or cultural. The main point is to ask what individual preferences are and respect their choices with regards to their ‘label’ as opposed to imposing them.