What does BIPOC stand for?
BIPOC is a relatively new term that stands for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.” It’s a replacement for the antiquated term “minorities” and a more specific form of the acronym “POC." The word empowers racial and ethnic groups rather than marginalize them.
Here’s a breakdown of each of those categories:
“Black” generally means a person who is of African or Caribbean descent. While many people have become accustomed to saying “African-American” to be polite, this is not always appropriate. There are people of African descent who are not American. Many people also don’t trace their Blackness directly back to Africa.
Unless you are certain the person you are speaking to is African-American, it is a good rule of thumb to default to Black.
“Indigenous” is a broad term encompassing all those who trace their lineage to the original residents of a continent.
Some other common terms you may see include:
- Native Americans
- First Nations
- Native Alaskans or Alaskan Natives
Please be aware that these are broad terms. Use tribe names when referring to a small group or individuals.
People of Color
“People of Color” is a broad descriptor that includes all ethnic groups that are not included under the umbrella of “white.” This includes people from:
- Hawaii and other Pacific Islands
- The Philippines
All these groups have their own sets of challenges, stereotypes, and systemic racism.
How do you pronounce BIPOC?
BIPOC is pronounced like “By Pock."
Why should you use BIPOC instead of minority?
Mental Health America has a great explanation for updating your language:
“The continued use of “minority or marginalized” sets up BIPOC communities in terms of their quantity instead of their quality and removes their personhood … By including “BI” Black and Indigenous in addition to “POC” people of color, we are honoring the unique experiences of Black and Indigenous individuals and their communities, as well as the spectrum of existence and experience by POC.”
The use of the terms majority and minority in relation to ethnicity and race also help reinforce our unconscious biases. When we use these terms, we allow our brains to rehearse that some people are major and other groups are minor.
Shifting to the term BIPOC when addressing all racial and ethnic minorities is an easy way to fight racial injustice and reshape how we categorize social issues.
Why use BIPOC instead of POC?
POC stands for “People of Color” while BIPOC stands for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.” The terms can seem redundant, right? So why the need for the added specificity?
BIPOC pays respect to the very different experiences Black and Indigenous people go through that other people of color may not experience. It centers the specific violence, cultural erasure, and discrimination experienced by Black and Indigenous peoples.
On top of that, POC has become a more politically correct way to say "Black" in many spaces, effectively erasing the experiences of Asian and Pacific Islanders as well as other people of color.
When you say BIPOC you are specifcally acknowledging the significance of all these communities.
When you should and shouldn't use BIPOC.
If you are referring to all ethnic and racial groups, then use BIPOC. If you are referring to a broad range of social issues that center all ethnic and racial groups, use BIPOC.
If there is a more specific term that can be used, use it instead. Don’t hide behind the acronym when trying to address sensitive topics. It can come across as an erasure of individualized experiences and cultural identity.
Here are some situations to showcase the difference.
|You’re on Twitter and you want to make a comment about how you would like to
read more books by and featuring people who are non-white in order to broaden your perspective.
|You’d like to speak about the large number of Indigenous women who go missing every year.||Say Indigenous.|
|You want to talk with your school board about how the Black children
in the school are disproportionately punished for behaviors
other children exhibit
|You’re having a conversation in the comments on Facebook and want to talk about systemic inequities and how they impact racial and ethnic minorities.||Say BIPOC if the issue concerns all of those groups. Always be more specific if possible.|
|You want to provide resources to #StopAsianHate in relation to the recent spike of hate crimes against Asians.||Say Asian.|