The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry has signalled its intention to stop using the term BAME, in a move it hopes will be a “catalyst for change” for the wider industry.
The theatre said it had decided to eradicate the abbreviation of black, Asian and minority ethnic in all of its internal and external communications, and encouraged more organisations to follow suit.
A statement of intent, published on its website, said: “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 Belgrade said its decision was a direct response to a call to action from the Black Creative Network, a group of black artists in the West Midlands, which advocates for change in the arts and has identified a number of problems with using BAME.
These include the use of the term to describe an individual, which “strips away people’s individual identities and encourages us to see those who are not white British as a single, homogeneous group”, and as well as assigning a “collective identity to the vast range of racial, cultural and ethnic groups currently living in the UK”.
The group also says using the term BAME reinforces the assumption of white British as the norm, but also conflates characteristics that are not comparable. For example, while Asian describes a person’s geographic heritage, black refers solely to a skin colour.
The Belgrade said it wanted to “provide a space where all of the people who make up our city feel seen and supported” and so would not be replacing the term BAME with “an equivalent umbrella term”.
It is also planning to stop using BAMER, which also incorporates refugees, and POC to mean person or people of colour.
“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,” the theatre said.
The theatre’s co-artistic director, Corey Campbell, later tweeted that he hoped the decision would prompt “ongoing conversations about the complexities of this and how we move forwards positively”.
There is already controversy around this 🙄 but I stand by our decision @BelgradeTheatre and hope to have ongoing conversations about the complexities of this and how we move forwards positively. BUN BAME #jointheconversation t.co/1ydyi76gM9— Corey Campbell (@Campbell1Corey)>
There is already controversy around this \uD83D\uDE44 but I stand by our decision @BelgradeTheatre and hope to have ongoing conversations about the complexities of this and how we move forwards positively. BUN BAME #jointheconversation https://t.co/1ydyi76gM9— Corey Campbell (@Campbell1Corey) July 16, 2020