Party culture

Discussing issues affecting people from a minority ethnic group

There are a number of terms in use around race and ethnicity and some people are nervous about making sure they use the right ones. While some words are commonly understood to be racist other offensive terms might be less well known to you. As a general rule, if you are unsure whether a word is offensive don’t use it. You should also think about whether it is relevant or necessary to draw attention to a person’s race or ethnicity because it often isn’t.

Using the word ‘coloured’ to describe people of non-white descent is discriminatory and you shouldn’t use it when referring to or discussing issues affecting a minority ethnic group.

People of African descent do often describe themselves as Black and this can be an acceptable term to use (although it is important to note that not all people of African descent would describe themselves like this. If you are unsure, ask the person what they are comfortable with). In the UK, Black is sometimes used in a political sense by other minority ethnic groups, especially people of Asian descent, who share a common experience of racism because of their skin colour. Other terms you might come across include BME/BAME which stands for Black and Minority Ethnic or Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. Both of these terms are regularly used by people of non-white descent to describe themselves. The Scottish Government and a number of race equality organisations in Scotland use the term minority ethnic.

Not everyone from a minority ethnic community will necessarily define as BME or BAME, for example people from the Roma community or Irish travellers. If you aren’t sure about what is the most appropriate word, it is always better to ask someone from that community what language they are comfortable with.

For more information and definitions of words about race and ethnicity please see our glossary.

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