Which label should we use to describe ourselves?

Authors: Jenny Christopher & Paramjeet Singh Bhogal

In Britain the majority people have no problem in being called ‘white’. How did this arise? They clearly are not white. As Britain began to interact with the world and people from across the globe migrated to live in this country we have had a plethora of terms used to describe these people, some examples include Ethnic Minority, Black and Minority ethnic, Coloured, Ethnic, African Caribbean and Asian. All these terms have been prescribed by by dominant ‘White’ narratives to describe others, often without their consultation or agreement. The political term Black originated from the anti-racist and civil rights movement in the USA and  originally referred to the African American population who had systematically been subjected to discrimination, marginalisation, exclusion and oppression. This political movement identify racism as the major factor in this discrimination, and remains a common issue amongst communties who are not white.

The term now encompasses other ethnic groups who have commonalities in their shared oppression. The political term Black is also used to empower these communities, less as ‘ethnic minorities’ but as global majorities and foster a sense of solidarity in the common struggles Black people face. When a activist claims to be politically Black, they identify and commit with these empowering and radical sentiments . This has been an important distinction for trade union movements cross the United Kingdom, which has been fought for and defined by ‘Black’ activists. It is also an inclusive term, which offers self-identification which is not only racialized but expressed a common experiences of structural and institutional racism across education.

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