BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
BIPOC definition and terminology
The term BIPOC has emerged in recent years with the aim to address specific issues of violence, cultural appropriation and discrimination experienced by Black communities, People of Color and Indigenous People. It gained traction during the Black Lives Matter movement in the US following the murder of George Floyd, and has later spread to other spheres of social justice activism, both in the US and abroad.
From a language perspective, BIPOC is an effort to reclaim labels and narratives shaped by dominant white populations to oppress minority groups.
One example is the term “colored people” used within historically oppressive systems to alienate communities based on race. This term, which was widely used during periods of segregation in the US, sought to uphold a racial hierarchy, with the White population claiming superiority over communities of color.
BIPOC acknowledges the unique struggles and histories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, respecting their individual identities and cultures. It challenges language that perpetuates stereotypes and reinforces systems of inequality. It is a fundamental way for these communities to reclaim their identities and distance themselves from a language that has often been used to describe racial and ethnic identities by those in positions of power.
What does BIPOC mean?
As an acronym, BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. It is considered to be person-first language and as such it intends to center people’s individual identities before their ethnic backgrounds.
Person-first language is an approach that emphasizes a person’s inherent dignity and worth beyond their racial affiliation.
What is BIPOC?
BIPOC is an umbrella term that acknowledges not all people of color have the same experiences or face the same levels of injustice. It does, however, recognize that these communities are all severely affected by systemic racism and discrimination, BIPOC meaning to highlight issues of white supremacy, in particular within the historical context of the United States.
BIPOC represents Black, Indigenous, and People of Color but these are all umbrella terms for an array of different communities with their own diverse cultures, languages and histories:
- Black: Describes a person of African or Caribbean origin. The term “African American” is widely used in the United States but has received some criticism for not being entirely accurate. For example, some people who identify as Black in the U.S. may not have African heritage.
- Indigenous: In a U.S. context, it describes the native populations of North America, which encompass more than 500 different tribes. Other terms that may be used interchangeably are American Indians, Native Americans, First Nations and Native Alaskans.
- People of Color: An umbrella term that describes all people who are not White, including Black or African American, East Asian, Latino/a/x and South Asian. It has received some criticism for being too broad, referring to many different communities as a single “other” community.
The problem with BIPOC
While the term BIPOC is intended to be inclusive, many argue that it can be imprecise and misguiding. Not all racial and ethnic groups see themselves as represented within the BIPOC umbrella as it may inadvertently overlook the identities of specific racial groups.
For instance, some communities within the Asian or Latino/a/x diaspora may feel that their experiences of racism and discrimination are distinct from those of Black and Indigenous communities. By lumping them together under the BIPOC label, there is a risk of mainstreaming their unique narratives.
There are other options available, such as ALAANA, which stands for African, Latinx, Arab, Asian, or Native American, and POC, which refers to all People of Color. However, these terms are less widely used compared to BIPOC.
The difference between BIPOC and POC
“POC” is an umbrella term that collectively includes all People of Color. The term emerged in the late 20th century as a response to the need for a more inclusive way of referring to individuals who are not of White European descent. However, nowadays many consider it to be somewhat outdated.
POC has also been criticized for being too broad, failing to distinguish between different ethnicities and racial groups. Originally, it was as a way to unite racial and ethnic minorities who have experienced systemic discrimination. However, some communities have found it to be inaccurate and offensive, lumping together groups with vastly different cultural backgrounds and historical contexts under the same roof.