Before you read this article, I want to start by clarifying that I dislike the use of the acronym ‘BAME’ as a way to describe and group Black and Asian minority ethnic groups. The acronym ‘BAME’ was created by the British government, an institution that is meant to represent the country, but as of 1st May 2019 only 8% of MPs were of a Black or Asian ethnic minority. This acronym is just another way of non-specifically saying Black or Asian people, almost like if they said someone was black, they would come across as racist.
Throughout history, Black and Asian people have been constantly labelled — either as ‘people of colour,’ ‘BAME,’ ‘exotic’ — as a way of lumping individual people, with individual experiences together. This is ludicrous. The Black British experience is obviously different to the Asian British experience. In my opinion, when meeting a person for the first time, we should only evaluate them on how they present their character and/or interests, so maybe when addressing people, we as a society should treat them as an individual. You should try it. But alas, in all the research and government documents I have read in the process of writing this article, the term BAME is used, which is why you might see it, unfortunately, sprinkled in this article.
the want and the need for change is nothing new, none of the discussions people are having about social issues are new
During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an enormous surge in discussions about social issues. It seemed as if when societal life as we know it literally shut down, the need for change about the way we live our lives became the top priority for many people. However, the want and the need for change is nothing new, none of the discussions people are having about social issues are new. What is new — is the mass engagement with these issues. This pandemic has highlighted the unjust inequalities within society so intensely, that even if you were the most socially unaware person you would know what was happening, and if you do not know what is going on in the world…there is no need for us to be friends.
Coronavirus itself does not care if you are a man or a woman, or if you are in the top 1% of earners. The virus does not discriminate, but what this virus has shown is the different effects of a pandemic on different communities. As SAGE has stated, it is the ‘socio-economic disadvantages, high prevalence of chronic diseases and the impact of long-standing racial inequalities,’ that mean people from a Black or Asian background living in the UK have a greater risk of dying from Covid-19. This research information from SAGE is not surprising, from reading the Public Health England document, ‘Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups’ it was evident that Coronavirus had just exposed the already shocking inequalities in public health/living and economic standards that Black and Asian communities have faced for so long.
This engagement is not just a movement, it is people’s lives.
Some people’s biggest issues during this lockdown/pandemic might have been slow delivery of clothes. Such clothes derive from exploitative companies like Boohoo, whose factory staff are paid less than the minimum wage, while also being from minority ethnic groups. Perhaps the press coverage of atrocious business practices such as these has led people to be more aware and engage with some social issues our country faces. However, as a mixed raced 18-year-old woman just starting adulthood, it scares me that the momentum surrounding people’s anger at the state of society will vanish in a few months once people go back to work, university, or school. In my opinion, without the lockdown, the public would not have paid as much attention to the murder of George Floyd. The typical excuse of, ‘I’m too busy’ will be implemented in the mindset of many.
Try to be aware, try to help, check yourself for your own biases … ask yourself why do you have these biases?
This is the horrible reality of our society. The issue is, people have never been too busy to have unconscious or conscious racial biases, never too busy to turn a blind eye to the pre-COVID-19 inequalities in society. The engagement and anger at social issues in our society as a result of COVID- 19, which is bringing awareness to these issues, cannot just be a moment in popular culture. This engagement, momentum and anger has to be implemented in our everyday lives. If we feel someone is being treated unfairly because of the colour of their skin, their accent or the language they speak, then you have every right to be angry at that. This engagement is not just a movement, it is people’s lives.
Try to be aware, try to help, check yourself for your own biases… ask yourself why do you have these biases? Educate yourself, because it is not Black and Asian minorities’ responsibility to try and make you aware. If Coronavirus has made you realise the severity of inequality within our country, then how you act during the rest of this pandemic and the aftermath is of key importance.
There are an abundance of books, podcasts and television shows that discuss the social issues I have written about in this article. I would highly recommend watching the show, ‘I May Destroy You’ by Michela Cole. This show authentically navigates and portrays so many necessary discussions — ones I have not even discussed here. A good friend of mine Tilda Blohm, and our fellow Exeter student Elijah Joel, released a podcast episode titled ‘Race and Privilege,’ where they discussed micro-aggressions, white privilege and other ways of educating yourself on Black history in her podcast called ‘The Loving and Learning Podcast’. This episode’s topics of discussion, especially micro-aggressions, reveal how engrained prejudice is in our society.
There are plenty of other books to read, or television shows to watch that I could mention, but as Reni Eddo-Lodge writes in her bestselling novel, ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race,’ so eloquently:
‘Sometimes it’s about self-preservation.’
By Lola Schroer
Illustration: by Rachel Cottrell