by Rakib Ehsan
Friday, 21
August 2020
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Why the ‘BAME’ term has outlived its purpose

Some of the sharpest social tensions are between ethnic and religious minorities
by Rakib Ehsan

A new report published by Hope Not Hate, focusing on the socio-political attitudes of British minorities, provides much food for thought over how we should view community relations in modern-day Britain.

The survey found that twice as many ‘BAME’ people agree (40%) than disagree (21%) that there is more tension between Britain’s different minority communities, when compared with tensions between white and non-white groups.

While it may be an uncomfortable truth for those who are intent on framing Britain through a white versus “BAME” prism, the reality is that some of the sharpest social tensions are between ethnic and religious minorities.

Credit: Hope not Hate

These social tensions make a mockery of the term ‘BAME’ — an acronym which is no longer fit-for-purpose when one considers the social, economic, and religio-cultural complexities of modern-day Britain.

In a multi-ethnic, religiously diverse society such as ours, a degree of conflict is inevitable. And encouraging ethnic and religious groups to ‘mind their own’ and hide in their segregated silos would be hugely counterproductive — for a lack of intergroup contact breeds feelings of anxiety and suspicion of ‘outgroupers’. Both the 2001 Cantle and 2016 Casey reports correctly identified segregation as a fundamental problem from a social cohesion perspective.

Social integration holds the key here. This is demonstrated by my PhD research, and also by the findings of my new report for the Henry Jackson Society which found that better-integrated British Muslims not only held more favourable views on non-Muslims, but were also less likely to support antisemitic conspiracy theories, when compared with poorly-integrated co-religionists.

It is therefore time for mainstream politicians and policymakers to stop viewing community tensions in simplistic ‘white v BAME’ terms. Local community cohesion plans need to reflect the reality on the ground. The most problematic social tensions in West London, may be different to those in inner-city Birmingham. And some of these tensions will not involve white British people.

The UK Government does not only need to bring social integration higher up its domestic agenda. It also needs to work closely with local voluntary organisations and interfaith community groups, to help develop enduring bonds of social trust and mutual respect in Britain’s urban diverse communities. And it also has to be aware of the potentially destabilising impact of geopolitical tensions in both the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, on both interethnic and interfaith relations in the British context.

Creating a more socially cohesive Britain in the post-Brexit, post-Covid world, should be a political priority. Whether that is reflected in meaningful policy action, remains to be seen.

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chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
1 year ago

some of the sharpest social tensions are between ethnic and religious minorities

I believe that this gets only halfway to the truth. The conflicts in question do not involve “ethnic and religious minorities” per se. There are no bitter street battles between Koreans and Asatru. There are no competing drug networks run by rival Norwegians and Baha’is.

Rather than beating around the bush, let us be honest: the problems under discussion are predominantly caused by people of recent African heritage and people from cultures that follow Islam. In another UnHerd comment today, I pointed out the Fragile States Index, in which of the worst 20 failing states, all but one is either African or Islamic”and the other is Haiti.

The humans who live in those failed African and Muslim states are the cause of their social problems, and it should be no surprise that they are also the cause of social problems here when they are imported en masse into our own stable and prosperous societies.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Exactly. If you import savage third worlders into your country you will end up with a savage, third world country. This is what our politicians have done to Britain. They are as evil as those the deliberately import for their demented ideological reasons.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

I’m encouraged by this article, which seems to recognise the total failure of the multicultural experiment. Three decades of promoting multi-culturalism have resulted in the exact opposite: a multiplicity of monocultures.
I have observed first hand the toxic racism that is customary and condoned in their home countries of Chinese, Asian and Arab people towards black people. Britain is one of the least racist countries, not just in Europe but in the world. When BLM and their woke, white media supporters fail to recognise that and insist the colour of my skin is enough to make me culpable for all their perceived injustices, conflict becomes inevitable.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
1 year ago

It would be really interesting to collect some empirical data about how communities become integrated. Whether it would be possible to do such a thing I don’t know, there might be too many factors, and situations of different communities might be too different. But I often wonder if anyone really knows how to accomplish that kind of integration.
Part of it I suspect is just time, it takes a certain amount of time for a new population to become integrated into an existing community, even a stable one. If the community is unstable, as many are now, it may be difficult for it to happen at all – people are just thrown back into the networks they already have.
This is even true of people who simply move from one town where they originate to another where they have no roots, within the same country, with the same language. A healthy connected community will integrate them over a few years, but in a fragmented one there is no integraton. Which makes me think that absorbing new communities from abroad means having stable local communities in place already.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago

These are important questions because from my experience living in a predominantly traditional Muslim community in Birmingham as well as having lots of contact with traditional Muslims at my allotment, they do not want to integrate.

They want to defend their cultural practices and their national norms by rejecting anyone who does not conform. Therefore in a very real sense, they specifically seek to create foreign enclaves which are a continuation of their compatriot’s lives abroad.

Consequently they resist speaking and learning English, they resist the rule of law if it conflicts with the rules of their enclaves and when pressured to do so are then defended by Marxist and Liberal cultural relativists.

For me, the reason is clear, Marxist and Liberal cultural relativists want balkanisation so they can position themselves as arbitrators who then arbitrate between different cultural groups.

This self designated role of arbitrators is the source of their cultural power which we are now witnessing at the national level by arbitrating the conflicts between BLM/BAME and the rest of British society.

Marxists and Left Liberals actively want social fragmentation because it is the primary source of their cultural power. Therefore they will purposely antagonise and seek conflict, not for moral reasons to address disparities of power, but for political reasons in order to accumulate cultural power.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

Adolph Reed makes a similar argument about the rise of what he calls a managerial class in the African-American community in the US. By presenting that community as a united group with one opinion on issues middle class blacks are able to present themselves as the leaders of that community who speak for the group. That allows them to advocate for policy changes with some moral authority, even though the economic interests of those leaders are often much more closely aligned with other middle-class professionals rather than the struggling members of the black community. And it even creates a direct career path for many of the middle class blacks as community activists.

From that perspective I’d say it’s really a very anti-Marxist argument, as it attempts to prevent class solidarity by essentialising race solidarity.

I wonder, in the situation you describe, there isn’t something similar going on. The progressives, who almost always advocate for policy that is beneficial mainly to the comfortable middle classes, hope to prevent these groups from making connections with other communities around shared economic or even cultural interests that might not really be in like with the progressive views. Traditional working class communities are often more socially conservative and would probably be more sympathetic to many of the values found in immigrant communities, and their economic positions in society have a lot in common.

In fact you can see that many progressives are quite surprised and even a little offended when they see that quite a few”BAME” individuals from relatively recently arrived families join the Conservative party and do quite well there.

trentvalley57uk
trentvalley57uk
1 year ago

Too late now. When mass immigration was introduced, quite naturally communities became larger and larger. No need to intergrate when your community provides your needs. With tech events it became much easier to remain in close contact with ancestral countries. Huge areas taken over by immigrants actually excluded native people and made intergration impossible

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

I never understood how BAME ever gained currency in the first place.

What BAME basically meant was “Non-Whites”. I’m fairly certain that anyone who split the country into “Whites” and “Non-Whites” would receive a lot of push-back from the Liberal left, yet that is essentially what anyone who uses “BAME” is doing.

“Non-White” would seem a description that was blatantly “problematic” (to use the favoured adjective of the professional offence-seekers). To talk of the BAME community – as though anyone who wasn’t white could be thought of as some unified block, whose attitudes were the same, who thought and voted the same – seems utterly demeaning.

As a term, it seems to set up society into oppositional forces – Whites and Non-Whites, which no doubted suited the activist mentality. As a way of describing such a large and diverse part of British society it was as useless as it was divisive.

You say it is no longer fit for purpose – I would suggest it never was.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

The term used to be ‘coloureds’ I think. What the so called progressives are doing is dividing the world into whites and coloreds (I’ll use the US spelling, seems somehow dissonant to read the word with the UK spelling) having re-branded the latter. Problematic doesn’t even begin to cover it.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
1 year ago

Couldn’t agree more. You have to look no further than Greek and Turkish communities in London for tensions, and the idea of an Asian woman marrying a black man could well lead to immediate disowning of the woman. I cant remember the figures but there is a fair bit of inter racial marriage between white people and other races especially Afro Caribbean but next to nothing between other races: Black-Asian, Chinese- Black, Indian-Chinese etc etc.

I think BAME retains a grip on the white middle class commentariat who, unfortunately still see themselves as somewhat detached from racism which is far too easily portrayed as a ‘working class’ problem

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
1 year ago

50% of black British people marry outside their race. That’s much higher than the US at about 4.5%. Another reason why importing American ideologies is pointless.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

In truth the term BAME never did have a purpose beyond making millions of us feel guilty for living in our own country.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It also did little more than make people such as myself (as the son of immigrants and a proud British Indian) feel as if we were never going to be accepted because the establishment kept trying to put us into boxes based on skin tone etc.

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
1 year ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

Every thing about us is a construct – we create difference, as we can equally do the opposite. I was once criticised for saying I was blind to people because they all seem basically the same to me – some good, some bad, some indifferent.

David George
David George
1 year ago
Reply to  Olaf Felts

Not sure I understand the “same but different” line Olaf but one things for sure; we will continue to value. Just try operating in the world if everything is of equal value, or worse, of no value.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

TRY and make us feel guilty

Mike Olley
Mike Olley
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

50% – gosh that is a high figure.

Andrew Shaughnessy
Andrew Shaughnessy
1 year ago

I think the term will fall out of use in the near future. BLM supporters are now saying that NBPOC (non-black people of colour – yet another acronym!) need to “educate themselves”. By this they mean acknowledging that in what Katharine Birbalsingh calls the “totem pole of oppression” blacks are at the top. People of Indian and Chinese heritage are widely regarded as the wrong sort of BAME because they tend to do very well for themselves without expecting, much less demanding, preferential treatment. This also tends to breed jealousy among the less successful groups.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

BLAME would have been a better term because all these people ever do is blame others for their own failures.

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
1 year ago

A bunch of sociologists get together every other year to decide on the most reductive and divisive definitions they can conjure up to keep the conflict going, until eventually a communist paradise appears and everyone is equal (apart from white people, of course – although I’m sure most of the types doing the reductive work are white, middle class academics who read The Guardian with the same sort of passionate fervour that Jehovah’s Witnesses read the Bible).
We aren’t really a multi-ethnic society – England (or Britain, if you prefer) is still ethnically English by a huge majority, hardly a surprise in a native white country. “How to define white or English?” cry the midwits – try applying this question to every other ethnicity. Good luck.

dandj26
dandj26
1 year ago

Personal experiences.
In the 1970s I dated a West Indian girl until her brother found out and threatened her with a knife for going out with a white man.
In the 90s the dislike of West Indians and Africans for each other, came to my attention.
Now I walk my dog along with an Indian lady, who is the most racist person I have ever met. She tells me that it stems from her father who told her never to marry a “BMW”, Black, Muslim or White. She is mellowing, apparently her daughter could marry a white man.
How the BAME industry can pretend that all non white people can be lumped together eludes me.

Alan Hall
Alan Hall
1 year ago

Interesting and welcome article. The left/woke activists’ focus on diversity and “identity” is very divisive, but divisiveness has always been their obsession. Divisiveness will lead to revolution and destruction of the status quo, which is their aim. Having failed to ferment revolution through class division they are now desperately trying to exploit natural differences between races and religions. Such differences do not mean hatred or conflict – unless fermented.

trentvalley57uk
trentvalley57uk
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Hall

But where are they going with it. Regardless of the destruction caused there are no tanks on the horizon waiting to consolidate their totalitarianism cause. They are too few in number to take over in a political sense. Destroying the fabric of our society is just a game to them that reaps more concessions added to a little looting profit. The beneficiaries are BLM. No disruption, division or hatred, no BLM
It is in their interests to keep inciting riots and violence

William Cameron
William Cameron
1 year ago

Black and Minority Ethnic.

That is wrong on so many levels. There is a world of difference between a person of Caribbean and Nigerian extraction- but both are included under “black”.
The others are not Minorities. There are for example more Muslim folk than Black folk in the UK.
So the term BAME is wrong and meaningless.

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
1 year ago

Exactly. Why are blacks separated out from other minority ethnic groups, particularly as they are themselves formed of two quite distinct groups? And why did ‘ethnic minorities’ suddenly become unacceptable, to be replaced by BAME?

Tim Diggle
Tim Diggle
1 year ago

This article very much mirrors my experiences in the 1980s when, as a firmly middle-class white junior bank manager, I was in a relationship with second generation west indian girl. We observed that black guys (including two of her brothers) often dated and married white girls and, though less common, not unusual for white guys to go out with black girls.

However, brown and black NEVER mixed. There was also occasional inter-island tension within the west indian community and it was most unusual for a Jamaican to date another islander.

Although our romantic relationship did not blossom we have remained lifelong friends and nothing appears to have changed in the last 30-odd years. There have always been, and always will be, despicable extremists in every society but amongst the general population it has often seemed to me that within my limited experience tensions seem greater within the “BAME” community than externally.

Having said this my experiences then, and to a degree now when I am with my friend,, have led me to understand and appreciate that white privilege is real … and needs to be tackled – though I have no idea how.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
1 year ago

Why are people from disparate cultures, religions, and countries supposed to have something in common simply because they are black?

For how many generations can people identify as British “Asian”? Two, three, forever?

Where do the Asians from the African exodus and their UK descendants fit in to the BAME box? Some I know went first to India then decided they had more in common with the U.K. So came here.

We don’t have separate benches and bus seats for the BAMEs. But we still attempt to control and separate them out by racial and geographical profiles.

And in doing so, we ignore our common humanity. And that our first judgement of others – no matter who they are – should be by the content of their character.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
1 year ago

But who’s going to take the BAME?

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago

The terms keep changing: colored, people of color, POC, BIPOC, BAME, etc. Keeping up with these terms is a signal to others that you’re in the ‘know’ as well as allowing you the opportunity to look down on those who you use the out-dated terms. It’s a form of status-signaling.

Stephen Williams
Stephen Williams
1 year ago

Is that a double-negative I see in paragraph 4? “…no longer not fit-for-purpose…”

Tom Hawk
Tom Hawk
1 year ago

Perhaps BAME should be redefined?
Black African Minority Ethnic does not describe the reality of the world population where ove half the world live inside a circle covering India China the Philippines and Japan.

I suggest it should mean Black Asian Middle Eastern. That would cover most everyone non white European/American?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Hawk

That’s what it means now. Well, black Asian minority ethnic.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Perhaps we should revert to traditional terminology, then we would all know where we really stand?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Also the crucial letter there is M for minority, don’t you think?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Hawk

We used to have another word, too vile to mention here, but it began with W for whiskey and ended with G for golf.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago

The need for social integration is a deep recognition that as our global human growth crisis deepens, which includes deteriorating national biocapacity as our population overshoots ecological capacity (which leads to increasing import dependancies, land grabbing, forced evictions, deforestation, urban poverty and migration), growing oil depletion, growing resource scarcity per human and a more destabilised ecological environment generally, then human competition will increase.

Increasing human competition will be seen at both global and national levels and as the human growth crisis deepens, so will the human competition.

Socially integrated societies will be less prone to realistic conflict theory which essentially describes resource competition between perceived in groups and out groups.

A society that is fragmented and balkanised will not only be more susceptible to competition but will increasingly need to become more authoritarian in order to quell the effects of realistic conflict theory. This will no doubt make matters worse and at the same time be a very costly intervention.

Conservatives are often derided as Oppressors for seeking social integration, with claims that the integrated system will be structurally biased towards one cultural group.

However, on balance, when faced with the increasing competition as a result of our human growth crisis, in theory it is better to have a bit of discrimination within an integrated cultural framework rather than uncontrollable competition and conflict within a fragmented cultural framework.

I think non-white and white Conservatives understand the wisdom of this strategy (which includes cancelling terms such as BAME) whereas a majority of non-white and white Marxists and Left Liberals do not. Exceptions, having guided them to the Centre, are Kenan Malik, Nesrine Malik and to some extent Afua Hirsch.

As Nick Timothy recently argued, to build an integrated cultural framework will inevitably require compromise, tolerance and sacrifice. One could argue that BLM is part of that process but I think for Britons (whatever their ethnic heritage), the limits of compromise, tolerance and sacrifice has been reached and now it is the turn of Marxists and Left Liberals and the culturally segregated/enclaved ‘foreign’ communities they support.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

At the end of the Burma campaign, Sikhs, Hindus, Africans and Muslims all sat dowm swigging rum from a container, over enjoyed at the end of the war. By 1947, the slaughter between Muslims and Hindus /Sikhs in tbe Punjab and Calcutta was immense

What unites or divides people is combination of character and experience.

An upper class Muslim, landowner; educated in a British public school , trained at Sandhurst /university who served as an officer in the British Army; fought in WW2, drank whiskey, wore a sports jacket, smoked a pipe and was married to muslim wife wearing French fashion and educated in Paris; probably has more in common with a Briton or Hindu or Sikh Indian or African from a similar background than an illiterate Wahabi from the same country.

The replacement of a far more easy going Sufi inspired Islam by a doctrinaire Wahabism and power moving from upper class western educated aristocrats to middle class people, has reduced mixing.

People from all over the World attended public schools( Nehru – Harrow ) and universities from the 1870s onwards and integration largely depended on being good at sports and to a lesser degree, academic ability. Prince Ranji played for Cambrigeshire in 1891.

People playing sport together and undertaking dangerous work and especially combat will tend to break down barriers. When it is easy to judge people competence, courage and loyalty and people have to depend upon each other; then barriers dissolve. I consider it is the closure of factories in the UK which means far fewer men work together which maintains barriers. Britons have a sense of humour and banter whether on the sports field, factory floor or military unit will help to diffuse conflict.

I cannot think of any left wing middle class writer who has ever led men into combat from other races or undertaken dangerous work, say constructing railways/mines, etc. Consequently, they ignore events where white and non-whites have operated very effectively together, Kohima, Imphal and The Chindits, N Africa , Somalia( against Italians) to name but a few examples.