You may be old enough (like me) to remember that programme. Language has been on my mind a lot recently, especially with how the mainstream media talk about the new ‘Asian’ Prime Minister.
Through working with the incredible and diverse leading companies I work with and recently, through being asked to create a talk on ‘Communicating Diversity’ for CVAN for their Fair and Equitable programme. In order to do this talk I had to interrogate my practice as an arts PR, the way the press had presented my storytelling and analyse how I was trying to affect change through language.
As a self-identifying British Indian I have seen all the different ways journalists are referring to Rishi Sunak:
person of colour
Person of Colour
PM of colour
of Indian origin
The question is, do all these different ways to say this mean the same thing? What is the best practice language to use? What are people doing when they use particular terminology consciously and unconsciously? I use British Indian because I am British first and Indian in heritage and it accurately describes me through the facts in a neutral way.
‘Person of colour’ means someone who is not white, therefore polarising ‘white’ and ‘other’ and one could question how far away this is from saying ‘coloured’. There are so many others – and a new term being used to turn this on its head is ‘global majority’. Inc Arts BAME Over statement addresses and challenges these language conventions head-on coming out of conversations from global majority people in the arts sector.
When people use language that identifies that person as ‘something’ whether it is ‘First female xxx’ or the ‘First Black xxx’ it is othering. Making that person seem different and unusual, something ‘special’ it can inspire and elevate, but it can also be something to find an issue with – that difference is not always desired.
When I write stories for (and with) my clients, I find myself working to normalise difference while elevating and giving visibility in the world of media with creative work that has often come about through difference.
There is much more to say and review about communicating diversity, I have just touched the surface here, but after the mammoth press extravaganza around Sunak as PM, I felt I had to put something down about it.