On the Term BIPOC vs. POC

We hope this serves as a blueprint for other professional teams and the 200-plus high school teams in the Cleveland area. If there is a school or team that truly cares about fighting racism, these mascots cannot coexist.

– Cynthia Connolly of the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition, on the Cleveland Indians commitment to change their name

POC or BIPOC?

The Story

The term BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) has recently entered the mainstream media. “BIPOC” aims to resolve concerns raised by some Black and Indigenous people that the commonly used term “People of Color” or “POC” is an overgeneralization. They say it fails to acknowledge the specific issues only Black and Indigenous people face. At the same time, research shows that the term People of Color has a coalition-building effect, uniting people of many different backgrounds around what they have in common—marginalization in a society and culture dominated by whiteness.

Our Take

When it comes to identity terminology, context matters. If we’re talking generally about people of various ethnicities navigating a predominantly white institution, it makes sense to say “people of color.” But if we’re discussing people experiencing police brutality because they’re Black, it makes sense to say “Black people,” not “people of color.” Sometimes it’s important and necessary to emphasize specific differences between groups. And sometimes it’s valuable to emphasize what those groups have in common.

How It Affects You

When determining which term to use,

  • learn more about the reasoning and debate around the terms in question;
  • consider the context in which you’re speaking or writing; and
  • ask yourself and others if the terms in that context contribute to erasure, overgeneralizations, misconceptions, or exclusion.

Race, Class, and Classical Music

The Story

The world of classical music is grappling with its lack of diversity. Classical music critics are discussing how to increase representation in orchestras and ensembles. But some say the discussion is incomplete unless it addresses the issue of class. The lack of racial diversity from conductors to audience members is largely due to class-related hurdles that intersect with race.

person of color playing cello

As writer Robert Jackson Wood reminds us, “in 2018, the median income of Black workers in the U.S. was $41,361, while the median income of white workers was $70,642.” In classical music, instruments, training, and tickets are prohibitively expensive for most people. Increasing representation in orchestra and ensembles is a worthy goal, but it will not change the racial composition of audiences.

Our Take

Class is important, but often overlooked in conversations about diversity. The example of classical music is an interesting one because access to and engagement with classical music has long been an indicator of class. Even if someone happens to have exposure to classical music and develops an interest in it, it’s unlikely they’ll have the resources necessary to become a classical musician, let alone attend performances. If we consider the racial wealth gap, if the person is Black, there is an even smaller chance they’ll enter the world of classical music.

How It Affects You

You can start to incorporate discussions of class as part of your diversity and inclusion initiatives and anti-racist commitments by:

  • Asking yourself what kind of access or funds one needs to enter your field or industry; and
  • considering ways you could address class issues like the racial wealth gap.

Disabled Feminism

The Story

The New Women Podcast Series was created by writer Louise Page to raise awareness about disabled pioneers in the feminist movement. The series consists of fictionalized retellings of the lives of Helen Keller, Mabel Normand, and Rosa May Billinghurst from the point of view of the women themselves. The idea of the podcast came to Page due to her experiences as a disabled writer who is often asked to write on feminism and disability, but rarely on the intersection of the two topics. According to Page, she “wanted to show three women who experienced disability, and held feminist views, right at the beginning of the movement.”

Our Take

Louise Page notes that disabled people “are often viewed through a sanitized lens.” When the life of Helen Keller is taught in schools, “her radical political beliefs are often left out of the narrative.” The effect is that Helen Keller’s life is reduced to her childhood experiences with Anne Sullivan, rather than depicting her as a full human being. By taking an intersectional perspective, as Louise Page does, we can avoid “putting disability, and disabled people, into neat boxes.”

woman in a wheelchair in the workplace

How It Affects You

Here are some ways you can help create better representation for disabled people:

  • Learn about the full lives of disabled people through narratives that go beyond their disability.
  • Incorporate disabled activists, writers, and scholars into your lesson plans and reading lists.
  • Amplify the voices of disabled people who live at the intersections, such as disabled women and people of color.
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disabled feminism
intersectionality
people of color
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