Last month was the first time BIPOC was used in the Williams Record:

Widely-shared graphics produced by the YDSA have visually compared the $400,000 donation to the WPD to the $500,000 philanthropic commitment. “A minimum of $500,000 over five years will not cut it, especially when $400,000 was given to the Williamstown Police Department lump sum, despite their history of profiling and antagonizing BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] students and faculty,” Maduegbuna wrote.

Leave aside the substance of the debate. The first usage on the Williams website seems to be from last October. What is the text and the subtext of BIPOC? According to Wikipedia:

The acronym BIPOC, referring to “black, indigenous, and people of color”, first appeared in the 2010s. By June 2020, it had become more prevalent on the internet, as racial justice awareness grew in the US in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. The term aims to emphasize the historic oppression of black and indigenous people. The BIPOC Project promotes the term in order “to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.”

Are Icelanders BIPOC? A questions like this demonstrates the idiocy of the text of BIPOC. Obviously, Icelanders are indigenous to Iceland. In fact, Norwegians are indigenous to Norway and the Irish to Ireland. But that is clearly not what the people who use BIPOC mean by the term, even if they are not smart enough or aware enough to admit it.

That incoherence brings us to the subtext of BIPOC: Blacks are (just now?) much more important in the American non-white coalition. Back in the day, and even just 6 months ago, the standard phrase was “people of color.” It explicitly included anyone who was not white and, implicitly, placed them on an equal footing. No one was more PoC than any other PoC. That is now intolerable. A certain subset of the left is tired of places like Williams claiming — truthfully! — that majority of its American students are People of Color. Asian-Americans are many things, but they are too successful and assimilated for an inclusive term like PoC to serves its rhetorical purpose. The subtext of BIPOC is that Asian-Americans are no longer (fully) People of Color.

Note how the linguistic fluidity of BIPOC makes this transition easier. The initial meaning of BIPOC includes the traditional term: people of color. It is simply placing more emphasis on Black and Indigenous than was formerly the case. (And, since Indigenous is such a small part of the conversation, this really means more emphasis on Black, consistent with the ordering: It is BIPOC, not IBPOC.) But soon, as the nonsense of Germans-in-Germany-as-Indigenous becomes clear, the meaning will change to Black and Indigenous people and who are also People of Color. That is, anyone anywhere who is Black is BIPOC. Anyone who is Indigenous and also a Person of Color is BIPOC. Anyone else, i.e., Asian-Americans, is not. You read it at EphBlog first!

Of course, that will still leave us with one last mystery: Are Japanese citizens living in Japan BIPOC? Fortunately, analytic consistency is not a major concern on the left these days, so I doubt this will be a problem . . .

Print  •  Email