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Don't Call Me 'BIPOC' When You Mean 'BLACK'

Say Black with a capital B or say nothing at all.

Her Voice

Recently, the acronym BIPOC has been used when addressing issues surrounding Black Lives Matter, and the Black experience overall. I noticed the trend after the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man killed in Minneapolis during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill that resulted in him being pinned to the ground by former officer Derek Chauvin who kept his knee on Floyd's neck for at least eight minutes and 46 seconds while he spoke the same words Eric Garner did as he died at the hands of police, "I can't breathe."

When companies and communities began to speak out and demand justice for the senseless murder and biases that we face in this country, the term 'BIPOC' was at the helm of many conversations. It led me to wonder who exactly they're talking to and why again the Black community has to adapt to yet another name change?

It's enough as an African-American to unpack that I'm African without memory, and American without privilege, and now I'm expected to take time out of my Black day to Google this foolishness?

After some research, I discovered that BIPOC stands for "Black, Indigenous and People of Color". According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase, "people of color" dates back centuries — it was first cited in The Oxford English Dictionary, with the British spelling "colour," in 1796 — and is often abbreviated as POC. Additionally, The New York Times reported that Black and Indigenous was included by Cynthia Frisby, a professor of strategic communication at the Missouri School of Journalism.

While I understand the desire to advocate for multiple groups, and the importance of the acknowledgment of Indigenous people, and people of color, the BIPOC community promotes the inclusion of all people of color who have been mistreated, misrepresented, and discriminated against and unites marginalized communities on more significant issues that hurt all non-white individuals. When you address a group of people that includes Black and Indigenous people of color, that term is acceptable. When you are advocating for issues Black and Indendegous people of color, that term is acceptable. Police brutality, however, is not one of them - it impacts Black, Latinx, and Native-American communities specifically.

Quite frankly, I want our community, and those who desire to hold space for us to know that in order to do that, they need to say Black with a Capital B. The term is the new People of Color, it's palatable. Many of us have had to unlearn the need to say 'people of color' when they desire to say Black, including myself.

Still, after hearing another Black women address issues impacting our community specifically, and use the acronym, I thought that maybe I was being dramatic and questioned if I had unlearning to do. Days later, as I sat with my thoughts, the heroes of Black Twitter reminded me that my experience and perspective were valid as I felt silenced by trending terms.

The entire world had to shut down for this county to finally begin paying attention to the preservation of Black life, and we can't even have that?

This isn't to say that there shouldn't be spaces where the BIPOC community comes together. However, we deserve to take up space in conversations that impact us more than any other race, and we shouldn't feel the need to apologize for that.

Saying BIPOC when that's not who you wish to target allows this county to continue to avoid the harm that it's done to us, and it drowns out the Black community's cries. As a Black woman in this county, whose Great-Grandmother was Native-American and the first generation to move off of her reservation, I am well aware of the struggles that other groups face. This call-to-action is to not dismiss Indigenous people and people of color that have their own individual inequalities that they fight for.

This is to ask that just as Black people do not attach ourselves to those issues, do not lump us all together when discussing who is disproportionately shot, killed, and put in jail at the hands of police.

Doing so is beyond lazy, it's dismissive, and moreover it tells us that you don't think about what impacts us to the same magnitude as you do when other groups are involved. This country has 400 years worth of conversations specifically for Black people.

Now more than ever, we need to make sure we take up space, specifically for us.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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