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BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic): the ‘new normal’ in collective terminology
  1. Peter J Aspinall
  1. Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
  1. Correspondence to Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, George Allen Wing, Canterbury CT2 7NF, UK; P.J.Aspinall{at}

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Anyone who has been tracking the public health literature on the greater risks experienced by minority ethnic groups in the coronavirus pandemic will have been struck by the almost ubiquitous use of the acronym ‘BAME’. Government public health agencies use BAME as a modifying adjective for ‘… communities’, ‘… groups’, ‘… households’, ‘… people’, ‘… populations’, ‘… staff’ and as a noun. A 2020 report by Public Health England1 on the impact of COVID-19 on minority ethnic groups mentioned BAME 217 times without defining the term other than spelling out the acronym. Such usage is redolent of Ian Hacking’s ‘kinds of person’,2 a social group brought into being by the creation of labels for them and whose life narratives are dependent on social practices associated with such labelling.

While ‘BME’ (black and minority ethnic) entered the lexicon in the early 1980s and was first used in Parliamentary proceedings in 1987, …

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  • Contributors PJA is the sole author of this manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.