Boris Johnson's race commission 'to scrap use of BAME label'

Campaigners raise concerns after source quoted as saying term ‘unhelpful and redundant’

Campaign groups have expressed concern that a racial disparity commission set up by Boris Johnson might achieve little of substance following a report that one of its main recommendations will be that public organisations no longer use the term “BAME”.

Downing Street has refused to comment on the claim that one of the key proposals from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which is due to produce its delayed report imminently, is based around the term, which stands for black, Asian and minority ethnic.

According to the Daily Telegraph, which cited an unnamed source, the report will say the term is “unhelpful and redundant”, and too broad to describe the varying experiences of people from different ethnic backgrounds.

Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust charity, said she was deeply concerned that the commission, which was originally meant to report its findings in December, would end up doing little to tackle structural inequalities.

“If advice on the use of the term BAME is the extent of the commission’s findings, or the most pressing of its recommendations, then Britain’s ethnic minority communities are being insulted by this report and its authors,” Begum said.

“Regardless of the fact that many UK government departments including Defra [the Department for Environment
Food and Rural Affairs] and the Foreign Office have been advising for years against use of the term BAME, we live in a country where black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than their white friends, and young black men are 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the Metropolitan police than their young white neighbours.

“These are the sorts of issues the commission should be examining at an institutional and structural level if it is to have any credibility at all.”

Maurice Mcleod, chief executive of Race on the Agenda, said he would welcome the suggested change of language, but that he hoped the report would be more than “just a style guide”.

“Many activists working to end racism in Britain have long argued that use of BAME is problematic and so Rota is pleased to hear that the term will not be used by public bodies in future, McLeod said. “The term came about as a way of describing everyone who is not white but this kind of generalisation leads to a lack of specificity.

“By zooming out and looking at all minority ethnic communities together, the experiences of particular groups, such as African-Caribbeans or the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities, get lost.

The report was set up nine months ago, following protests after the death of George Floyd, Mcleod said, with no sign yet of a report, adding: “We hope that when the report is finally published, it comes with concrete actions rather than just a style guide.”

According to other sources, another idea being considered by the commission is ordering larger companies to disclose any pay gaps between white employees and their minority ethnic colleagues.

Ministers previously have committed to making annual ethnicity pay reporting mandatory for companies that employ more than 250 사람들, mirroring the requirements for gender pay. But more than two years after it released a consultation on its plans, further developments have not materialised, and more than 130,000 people signed a petition last year calling on the government to make ethnicity pay reporting mandatory.

Campaigners have expressed wider concerns about the likely recommendations of the commission, predicting it is likely to reflect the views of Munira Mirza, the head of Johnson’s policy unit. She has previously criticised the concept of structural racism, and had been given the job of setting up the panel.

Tony Sewell, her choice to chair the commission, has also previously questioned the effects of institutional racism. After he was appointed, in July last year, Sewell apologised for “wrong and offensive” comments he made in a newspaper column after the former footballer Justin Fashanu disclosed he was gay in 1990.

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