It was just over a year ago that I entered the world of student journalism. The thrill and excitement of being able to share my opinions for the first time turned into unease as I realised that there were not as many ethnic minority students involved in student media. This was a microcosm of the journalism industry considering 94% of journalists are white according to a study by City University London. However, since 69% of students at Queen Mary University come from BAME backgrounds, It was strange that I didn’t see more people like myself taking an active interest in media. This was when the beginnings of an idea started to take shape in my mind. What would it look like if Queen Mary had a magazine that was dedicated to BAME students?
It was just a wishful thought, at first. I didn’t know if I was capable of starting a magazine. However, the more I mulled it over in my mind, the more appealing the idea became. Creating a platform for BAME students would be a way to appreciate the huge diversity of identities that encompasses that bold 69% figure. There are so many different experiences and issues that ethnic minority students face such as, navigating different cultures, having a multicultural identity, dealing with racism etc. This is only the tip of the iceberg but these stories were not getting the attention they deserve. Furthermore, did students feel comfortable sharing their stories on platforms where audiences may not relate to the weight of their experiences? A question I always asked myself is whether ethnic minority students felt as if student media was a welcoming space. Maybe I needed to create that space.
Soon, it was more than just an idea. It became research, documents, and application forms. During this time, I started to become aware of the implications of the label BAME. I learnt that it allowed the government to lazily toss ethnic minority groups into the same homogenous category. The reality is that BAME encompasses such a huge range of ethnicities that it would be ignorant and dismissive to suggest that we all have the same experiences.
The use of BAME has been problematic due to its homogenizing effect. This became particularly pertinent as lockdown started and the Black Lives Matter protests took place. The constant use of language in the news such as, “BAME community” had a misleading effect; it seemed to erase the diversity of cultures, and the different ways in which racism has affected different ethnic minority groups. It is important that the experiences of Black people are not conflated with the experiences of Asian people. This applies to all groups. Conflating issues is synonymous to the erasure of identity. So, what did it all mean now that I had started a magazine for BAME students? Was I wrong? Did I need to backtrack?
The perception of BAME has been negative because the government has misused the label. It was a careless gesture from the government to attempt to define ethnic minority individuals in the UK. Instead, they perpetuated and reinforced stereotypes. Diaspora Speaks Magazine is about taking the label that the government has given us and transforming it into something empowering. We use the label BAME in the hopes that we can all learn to appreciate the sheer diversity of cultures and identities that stem from it. Far from being homogenous, when used correctly, the label becomes a champion for diversity. The words and voices of writers of colour will serve to show that BAME is a multifaceted term. Maybe, there is a future where BAME isn’t just a label that’s abused and misused.
Diaspora Speaks Magazine wants to reclaim BAME and to show that there is empowerment to be found in such reclamation. Ultimately, pushing boundaries is the catalyst to change in society.