A professor at California’s private Thomas Jefferson School of Law penned an article that argued the progressive term “BIPOC,” which stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, is not inclusive enough.
On June 5, Professor Meera Deo published an article for the Virginia Law Review titled, “Why BIPOC Fails.” Deo argues that the term “BIPOC” excludes Latinos, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, and other communities of color. The professor recommends that people and institutions use the term “people of color,” unless black and indigenous people “are at the center of the discussion and the data.”
According to The College Fix, the term “BIPOC” exploded in use after the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests and riots. According to Deo, BIPOC first appeared online in 2013 and “expanded on social media when taken up mainly by educated elites who see themselves as progressive voices on issues of race or ethnicity, regardless of their own identity backgrounds.”
Deo also argues that naming particular racial groups may cause further “marginalization” and hinder the efforts of “anti-racism.”
The professor writes:
However, what has been missing entirely is a wider conversation about usage of the term — why it may be necessary to update language, how it can be a tool in anti-subordination efforts, and whether this particular term is the most effective at this particular time. New language should not take over without community engagement and deep reflection.
New terms are useful and should be utilized in antiracism efforts; yet BIPOC itself does a disservice to communities of color and efforts to dismantle systems of racial privilege. Centering particular groups only in name ultimately furthers their marginalization because they remain excluded in fact though referenced in the term, erasing the power that comes from participation and inclusion. BIPOC begins with the premise that we should always center two particular racial groups — Black and Indigenous — within the people of color category, though these communities are not always at the center of the issue being discussed. While concentrating on these two groups may make sense in particular contexts, it cannot be true that every example of race and racism should center Black and Indigenous voices or experiences.
Together these add evidence to the claim that allies, advocates, and academics should not simply use whatever term is currently in vogue but instead critically examine the language we use and carefully match it to our data, priorities, and conclusions.
Deo has a slew of academic accolades. She graduated from the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Michigan’s law school, and the University of California-Los Angeles. In 2019, she published a book titled, “Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia.” The book focuses on how “race and gender intersect to create profound implications for women of color law faculty members.” She also works with the Law School Survey of Student Engagement.
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