I learned what the term BIPOC means this week. My son is the host of a weekly radio music show and this Thursday he featured music by black artists and gave specific suggestions from members of the BIPOC community about ways we can support them.
The term BIPOC was new to me so I did a little research. The letters stand for Black, Indigenous People of Color. According to writer Mahreen Ansari the term is a replacement for the phrase people of colour, which in turn replaced coloured people. People of colour was a better term than coloured people because the people or human part came first.
The problem with the term people of colour was that it put all non-white people into one category when often the discrimination they were experiencing was very different and was specific to their particular race. The term Black, Indigenous People of Color is considered more specific but also more inclusive because it brings together people of multiracial backgrounds in a way that doesn’t erase their specific identity.
The events that have unfolded since the death of George Floyd on May 25th make it clear white people like me have lots to learn when it comes to understanding what it means to be BIPOC in North American society.
This week I have been thinking about a student of mine I visited in Savannah Georgia. I was holidaying there and got together with a young woman who had been in several of my classes as well as my advisory cohort when I taught in Hong Kong. She was studying art at a college in Savannah. She told me how challenging it was to adjust to life in the American south because growing up in Hong Kong she had never experienced prejudice and discrimination because of the colour of her skin like she did in Georgia. It was a rude awakening for her.
For some reason, a photo of me with my colleagues in the English department of the high school in Hong Kong where I taught has resurfaced on Facebook this past week. People have been commenting on the photo and reposting it. It reminded me of how incredibly privileged I was to work with these four strong, intelligent and gifted women. We all came from different countries, had many different life experiences and were different ages, but we were such a good team and I learned so much from each one of them. What a perfect way to end my teaching career.
Dave and I just finished watching the new television series Little Fires Everywhere based on the novel of the same name by Celeste Ng. I found the story thought-provoking and timely. The setting for the story is an Ohio town called Shaker Heights which prides itself on its racial integration. But as the story progresses we realize that racism is still all too real in the community. The acting performances of Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are masterful. They play two mothers who have made very different choices about how to live their lives and raise their children and the reasons for their choices raise some important moral and ethical questions. I’d like to read the book now.