BBC – The game of ethnic rebranding

By The Ligali Organisation | Wed 10 August 2005

How the media portrayed minority communities as property in need of a new logo

Following comments from the Home Office minister Hazel Blears about changes to the identity classification of minority communities, the British media spoke in unison of ‘ethnic rebranding’ as if minority communities were cattle or property invoking images of the mutilation endured by African people during their forced enslavement by the British.

African woman being mutilated by European slavers

The Home Office decision to reconsider the institutional identity definitions of minority communities would have been a huge step forward towards promoting better race relations if it was motivated by concern and respect for those involved. However this was not the case and instead the topic arose as a result of fear inspired consultations following the London Bombings. It is very revealing how the media has been single minded in its myopic focus on British Asians throughout the debate, considering many of the suspects for the bombings were indeed African.

The issue of African self determination has been sidelined with little attention given to the fact that African Britons have long held grievances about the use of racial ‘colour’ as an institutional reference for African people. To understand the contemptuous nature of the issue it is worth trying to imagine the government calling for a ‘brown history month’ for Asians and a ‘yellow history month’ for the Chinese.

It would not happen.

With the typical headline of ‘Government considers ethnic rebranding’ the British media went into overdrive with its patronising coverage of what terms ‘we’ should use to rename minority communities. The usage of this offensive language permeated all media formats from topical talk shows, newspapers to the news and various television broadcasts. In an attempt to further belittle the serious nature of the sensitive topic of identity for minority communities, the BBC who was one of the leaders on the story has continued the debate with an article entitled ‘The UK's ethnic name game’. It quoted the sociologist, Professor Richard Berthoud of the University of Essex who summarised the reality of the situation when he stated that ‘however communities may see themselves, they cannot get away from the views of the majority population’.

Branding culture

External Links
African British identity tops poll
BBC - No 10 plays down ethnic rebrand
BBC - The UKs ethnic name game

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