The joyful world of discrimination.
I do not like the BME position. BME stands for Black & Minority Ethnic. I will begin with a disclaimer that this has nothing to do with whoever the current B.M.E. officer is. I have no clue who they are, or what they do as I write this.
So why do I have an issue with the BME position? I am a Minority Ethnic (or Black depending on whom you ask). The position is meant to promote issues from my community to the Union and the College. This is due to the belief that it is unlikely for the other members of the Union or the College to be aware of issues of facing us. While I do believe that there is no malice in the aims for BME, I do feel that it lacks nuance and holds those who identify themselves in this community back.
The main problem I have is the division that the position promotes. It puts everyone in camp A or B. A difference that comes from birth. I did not choose to be brown, nor do I know anyone who chose to be a particular ethnic group or have a certain skin colour. The position and term in itself does nothing but divide us. I understand that there are differences which do result in unfairness; through historical prejudices which have survived to this day. By having this position, we are meant to be able to break down these barriers but, I feel like this just ticks the multiculturalism box. “Look at us, doing stuff!”
The BME position does not solve the problem of people calling me Paki or being told that I am not Black enough to listen to rap music. However, I do not wish for these people to be prosecuted or detained in any manner. I want people to be more tolerant but fail to see how this will happen through extra representation (or as I prefer to say, different representation). As the cliché goes, the greatest weapon is education. Educating those in power will not stop the abuse, but educating those around me will. We cannot force people to believe something, but we can convince them.
We do not need other representation to get on the same level playing field. I think of my life in South Africa and the idea of having a white officer position at any student union. It would cause outrage. The Whites are a minority. Not all are rich, or speak the same language, or have the same education. Do they need a voice representing them? Yes, but not one just for them. Do most Whites have an advantage over the average person in South Africa, due to systematic discrimination? Yes. Should we punish people born after apartheid for the wrongs of others? No. Apartheid is awful. It is wrong. It is forgivable, but not forgettable. We learn through past failings to improve our shared future.
BME has the issue of how could a Korean student representing me (A person of East African and South Asian descent) understand the problems that I face? Sure, others could tell them, but what about West Africans, South Americans or Pacific Islanders? A token voice for a multitude of peoples and our various problems. If we are to believe that this position can represent all our views, then it must follow that any person can do so; regardless of background. Thus there is no need for an additional voice or a voice coming from a particular background. We should be given the same rights as any students, being represented by the same person. The best way to make us feel part of society is to minimise the difference in bureaucracy between all groups.
Another issue is the homogenisation of society. As areas of London get gentrified, the conversation of race and ethnicities is also getting gentrified. The utter rubbish that I get told for my language regarding this issue worries me. BME highlights this in unforeseen ways. I have been sternly told off for saying that a person looked ‘Coloured’, even after I explained that there is such a term used in Southern Africa to describe a group of distinct people. No, I was being an offence to people whose parents were of different ethnic backgrounds. Or as I call them, mixed. As I was told not to use so-called incorrect language, the only thing I felt was oppression. I am being told not to offend people, but I do not believe in Safe Spaces. I find them a violation of others rights and my own. Dialogue (or as we know it as; education) is the solution.
There is a growing idea that it would be better if we just ignore our ethnicities and race. That we should view everyone as human beings. This is what a position like BME undermines. Nor am I trying to the defend the past discrimination. If we are equal, then treat me as equal.
I would take my adopted homeland’s motto: Unity in Diversity.
Featured Image: Wikimedia