Race and Ethnicity Terminology - Our Approach

As part of the Inn’s aim to be inclusive and welcoming to all and meet the objectives of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Mission Statement and Equality and Diversity Policy, it is important that we discuss and use terminology and language on race and ethnicity in a way that is appropriate, respectful and inclusive – whilst acknowledging that understandings of terminology and the words used are constantly evolving. We want to listen and keep under review our understanding of the meaning behind the terms we use to address people.

We understand that our members will have their own preferences as to how they would describe themselves, and how they would wish to be described. The Inn intends to adopt a position of flexibility around racial terminology. We may ask our members which terms that they would prefer, and will seek to ensure that the words and terms we use in our publications, data reporting and throughout all areas of the Inn are specific to the group in question, or as preferred by an individual. We will promote an understanding of the differences in how people self-identify and encourage members and staff to mirror the terminology that individuals themselves prefer.

Definitions of Race and Ethnicity
Race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably. While there is overlap, they do not hold the same meaning.

Race is the categorisation of people into groups based mainly on their physical characteristics, such as skin colour (for example, Black or White) or similar appearances that they are perceived to share.

Race is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, and defined as including colour, ethnic or national origin, or nationality.

Ethnicity is usually used to refer to shared cultural experiences, religious practices, traditions, ancestry, language, dialect or national origins (for example, African-Caribbean, Indian, Irish).

Ethnicity can be seen as a more positive identity than one forged from the shared negative experiences of racism.

There is some overlap with the characteristic of religion or belief, with Jews and Sikhs considered to be ethnic groups under the Equality Act 2010, although Muslims are not considered an ethnic group but a religious group only under the Act’s definitions.

Commonly used words, phrases and acronyms
There are a significant number of words, phrases and acronyms that appear when talking about race and ethnicity. Included below is non-exhaustive list of phrases currently used for racial grouping:

Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) or Black and Minority Ethnic (BME)
BAME and BME are widely used terms that have been used in diversity reporting since the 1960s/70s. They refer homogenously to people of non-White ethnicities. The acronyms do not include White minority ethnic groups nor those who identify as having a mixed ethnicity. Unlike BME, BAME includes the Asian population.

The acronyms are often used when making comparisons with the White population in the UK and reflect a common way of data collection and reporting, for example, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Use of the terms BAME and BME have been increasingly criticised for a variety of reasons and have generally become viewed as unacceptable terms by those they are used to describe. Some of the reasons are as follows:

  • The acronyms are not well understood. With the acronyms becoming part of common lexicon rather than staying within research, they are often used as nouns, and misused when people are talking about a specific ethnicity, or when people are not race literate enough to use a more appropriate racial term.
  • The acronyms group together people of diverse ethnicities, implying that the term reflects a singular or homogenous ethnic identity, and often masking further inequalities faced by specific ethnic groups.
  • Without any uniformity, the acronyms conflate both race and ethnicity, merging them as though they are the same – in respect of BAME: ‘Black’ focusing on racial physical characteristics; and ‘Asian’ on ethnicity, with Asian people identified through reference to a geographical location.
  • The use of the word “minority” can be perceived as implying that members of ethnic communities may be less significant (rather than merely less populous) than the majority.

BAME/BME may be appropriate in some contexts – for example, in reporting statistical comparisons between White and BAME/BME populations. In these instances, the full label – Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) – should be used. However, the Inn’s data collection and statistical analysis will seek to become more granular and specific when addressing race and ethnicity in order to reflect the experiences of the different constituent groups of our membership.

Ethnic minority or minority ethnic
These terms refer to racial and ethnic groups that are in a minority within the population. In the UK, this would cover all ethnic groups except White British, and include White minorities such as Gypsy, Roma and Irish Travellers.

The terms are also problematic and disliked as they focus on the idea that people are a minority because of their ethnicity – thereby asserting that White British is the default and therefore those that do not fit that default are ‘others’.

Ethnically minoritised, minoritised ethnic, racially minoritised
These collective terms have been recommended more recently as they recognise that individuals have been minoritised through social processes of power and domination rather than just existing in distinct statistical minorities. They also better reflect the fact that ethnic groups that are minorities in the UK are majorities in the global population.

People of Colour, Women of Colour, Men of Colour, Black Indigenous and People of Colour
These terms, more regularly used in the USA, have been perceived by some as a more positive approach than BAME/BME because they do not assume or make reference to a majority White race. They can often be terms that people self-identify with because of a sense of ownership and pride in the colour of one’s skin. Black Indigenous and People of Colour aims to emphasise the historic oppression of black and indigenous people.

However, the terms focus solely on skin colour and do not address other ethnic discriminations and as such it is unclear whether they are inclusive of those from East Asian backgrounds and White ethnic minorities. The terms have been criticised for being too similar to ‘coloured’, which is seen as a racial slur. Further, the terms group together people of wide ethnic diversity and different shared experiences and identities.

Global Ethnic Majority (GEM) or People of the Global Majority (PGM)
These terms reframe “ethnic minority” to show that the people described ‘are the largest demographic in the world in terms of population’. As relatively new terms, it is not fully clear which ethnicities are included. They also group together people of wide ethnic diversity and different shared experiences and identities.

This is a racialised term for people of African or Caribbean heritage, focusing on skin colour or heritage linked to the African diaspora. It can also be a term that celebrates Black power in the battles against racial oppression from slavery through the civil rights movement up until now.

A term to describe anyone from an ethnic background who is not white British. The term defines other ethnic groups in relation to the White majority and is not well-received by those it is used to describe.

The Inn’s approach to race and ethnicity terminology

  • The Inn will avoid using umbrella terms such as “BAME” and will remove this acronym from future documentation and publication.
  • The Inn will avoid using collective terms such as “ethnic minority/ies” and will instead seek to become more specific in our data collection, statistical analysis and referencing of race and ethnicity, in order to recognise, reflect and understand the experiences of the different constituent groups in our membership.
  • The Inn will consider which racial or ethnic groups are being referred to and ensure that if it is necessary to refer to an individual’s ethnicity, the terms used accurately reflect them.
  • The Inn will respect people’s preferences and allow options to self-describe when asking survey questions.
  • The Inn will keep under review our understand of the meaning behind the terms we use to address people.
  • The Inn will encourage members and staff:
    • to mirror the terminology that individuals themselves prefer; and
    • whilst recognising that in some contexts it may be appropriate, to consider carefully how, why and who they ask to clarify their identity, in order to avoid making individuals feel like outsiders. This would include care taken over asking questions such as “where are you from?”