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BIPIC — Text and Subtext

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 . . .

22 Comments (Open | Close)

22 Comments To "BIPIC — Text and Subtext"

#1 Comment By abl On July 21, 2020 @ 8:43 am

I’d suggest that some research might do you well before writing. You misunderstand the reasons for using BIPOC and you misunderstand the relevant usage of “indigenous.”

#2 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On July 21, 2020 @ 9:02 am

abl: Details, please. I link and quote from Wikipedia. If that is a bad source, please suggest a better one.

I am using the dictionary definition of “indigenous.” What definition should I be using?

#3 Comment By That Guy On July 21, 2020 @ 9:39 am

Literally the most amusing thing about this blog is the willful ignorance of the proprietor and cronies. And look, I know that we are all supposed to ignore a bully, but sometimes it is just so damn hard not to laugh at them. Like, someone who fancies themself bright and who works at [Fancy School] is too lazy to go find a source besides Wikipedia? Are you fucking kidding me? Go educate yourself, dude. It’s not our job.

#4 Comment By Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin On July 21, 2020 @ 10:07 am

New York Times much confirm fully verify Wikipedia article definition and Wikipedia article cite New York Times in mutual perfect circule of clarification.


Black and Indigenous must be separate and precede other POC. Otherwise without BIPOC black and indigenous are erase. Not use new approve BIPOC acronym therefore literal genocide very bad much dread:

“We understand that under colonialism African and Indigenous people had very different experiences,” Dr. Nelson said. “To conflate everything in one is to erase, which is the very nature of genocidal practice.”

(Here in round brackets at end we mere note that also NYT seems puzzle about acronym but has much consult abundant professors of miscellaneous apparent unrelate fields like ‘communication strategery’ and ‘historical art’ who have much insight.)

No worry Asians still include for now.

If the intention was to help spell it out, some aren’t getting the message. On social media, many assumed the term stood for “bisexual people of color.” Others read it as “biopic,” the shorthand for a biographical movie. The term has caused confusion, and there isn’t universal agreement about what it means or whom it actually includes, but to most, the people of color includes Latinos and Asians.

Ha ha also at bisex misunderstand.

Also this:

“It is lazy to lump us all together as if we all face the same problems,” said Sylvia Obell, a host of the Netflix podcast “Okay, Now Listen.” “When you blend us all together like this, it’s erasure. It allows people to get away with not knowing people of color and our separate set of issues that we all face. It allows people to play it safe and not leave anyone out, and it also allows you to not have to do the work.”

In future not very distant I see long LBTQIA+ for maximum include maximum nonerase maximum acknowledge maximum genocide avoid.

“The whole point is that we want to take up space,” Ms. Obell said. “Take the time to say black, Latinx and Asian. Say our names. Take the time to learn. Show me that you know the difference.”

To attempt to represent so many different identities in a single term is a product of colonialism, according to Chelsey Luger, a wellness trainer at the Native Wellness Institute, and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, a tribal nation in North Dakota.

“It is a redundant term if anything else,” Ms. Luger said. “All people of color are Indigenous. A lot of people of color are not acknowledged as and don’t have a connection to that idea because their Indigenous identity has been erased through assimilative techniques or just the connection to our stories and our history has been violently taken from us.”

Yes that interpret much confirm.

Others simply want to be included in the process of coming up with terms that are meant to stand for them.

Also warning BIPOC possibly also very offend bad term so perhaps not use, unless imminent very serious risk of genocidal erasure, then quietly utter.

“This is like when we asked that they arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor and they’re like, ‘How about we pass a law?’” Ms. Obell said. “We are asking for a lot of things, and being called BIPOC is not one of them.”

“Stop making decisions for us without us.”

#5 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On July 21, 2020 @ 10:28 am

No publishing of personal information about anonymous members of the community, please.

> too lazy to go find a source besides Wikipedia?

Uh, Wikipedia is an excellent source. I, and most academics I know, go there first. Of course, it, like everything else, can be wrong. But it is a great place to start.

#6 Comment By abl On July 21, 2020 @ 11:14 am

Just to clarify, I wrote: “You misunderstand the reasons for using BIPOC.”

Also, re-reading your post, I think you understand that Icelanders are not “indigenous people” as the term is generally used, and I think you understand why. There’s no analytical inconsistency with the term’s use (or at least none that you point to), although I do want to recognize that the contemporary concept of indigeneity is complicated and fraught (are the Jews the indigenous people of Israel/Palestine?).

#7 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On July 21, 2020 @ 2:28 pm

> “You misunderstand the reasons for using BIPOC.”

Well, maybe? The New York Times article is far from clear. In anything, it suggests that different people have different reasons. But, to the extent you can parse it, I think that my one sentence summary is good:

“Blacks are (just now?) much more important in the American non-white coalition.”

What one sentence reason would you give?

> I think you understand that Icelanders are not “indigenous people” as the term is generally used

This is exactly the point that is under dispute! Back in the day, the term POC clearly did not include Icelanders. Now, by using the term indigenous, we have a problem because, for any reasonable definition of indigenous, Icelanders are indigenous to Iceland just as Maori are indigenous to New Zealand.

What definition of “indigenous” are you using?

#8 Comment By That Guy On July 21, 2020 @ 3:00 pm

Here, I Googled it for you. I look forward to you explaining why you know more about indigenous people than the folks who literally spend their lives thinking about it!


#9 Comment By Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin On July 21, 2020 @ 3:37 pm

I condense myself from diffuse godhead raincloud to comment in continuingly ridiculous thread where That Guy post kindergarten handouts with funny border think authoritative win checkmate teacher acknowledge me.

Now very much condensed. Can collect thoughts bring considerable clarity.

“Indigenous” has old dictionary term. Always mean (before modern troglodyte sophist soo-do intellects) organisms that “occur naturally in a particular place”. I cut and paste from googled Dictionary merely. But people speak of “indigenous” plant. of “indigneous fish”. Of “indigenous” mushroom. Even sometime of “indigenous” cultural forms.

Now this is fraught! This is abl-fabled Complexity! (Whenever ablenesses write of complexity you know some fraud is A Foot. “Complexity” “fraught” “hard”: are all great tells for the Troll of Concern. The Emoting Virtuist.) This is great problem. Somebody turn over stone, discover also European descended people might be native someplace. But they cannot be indigenous! Violate superficial pravda wankery! Must refute!

Happily we have great solution much convince very science:

Simply we develop separate happy proprietary define of indigenous and put in odd UN handouts for children with Bullet Points. Now have own special exceedingly virtue defintion with Correct Exclusions. Nobody is indigenous unless “non-dominant” in new Disney definition. Nobody is indigenous unless meet smorgasboard of random “noble savage” criteria (“connected to envirosphere” or whatever) conceived by network tv miniserie screenwriters.


Hear that indigenous fish? Hear that rare lithe grassland plant? Wee purple lizard of the plains? Not indigenous until threaten! Not indigenous until invasive species! Not indigenous until connect to healing algae develop BS noble savage cults drink bad herbal tea.

(Also Irish were never indigenous even tho they meet all definition here please plug ears go away omg.)

#10 Comment By Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin On July 21, 2020 @ 5:04 pm

Must had recondense saw comment very weak hilarious amuse reply compelled.

I look forward to you explaining why you know more about indigenous people than the folks who literally spend their lives thinking about it!

Such profound much depth so refute wow.

(Is like how well dressed young children know more about clothes than emperor who literally spent his whole life thinking about wearing them while naked.)

#11 Comment By Ivar Kronick On July 21, 2020 @ 5:46 pm

Just to clarify, I wrote: “You misunderstand the reasons for using BIPOC.”

….I do want to recognize that the contemporary concept of indigeneity is complicated and fraught (are the Jews the indigenous people of Israel/Palestine?).

What’s complicated? Granting indigenous status to an indigenous people. Yes, many, perhaps most, Jews living in Israel are indigenous. You think the Romans kicked all of them out when they erected the Trajan Column?

#12 Comment By Ivar Kronick On July 21, 2020 @ 5:47 pm

scratch the dangling thread above the quote.

#13 Comment By Ivar Kronick On July 21, 2020 @ 5:48 pm

I like MMU’s analogy of well dressed children. Isn’t that what we are arguing about?

#14 Comment By abl On July 21, 2020 @ 6:11 pm

Ivar –

Well, how do you define “indigenous people?” According to the UN’s definition (linked above), one characteristic of indigenous people is that they “[f]orm non-dominant groups of society.” That’s not true for Jews in modern-day Israel.

#15 Comment By Ivar Kronick On July 21, 2020 @ 6:33 pm

That smacks of made up-ness, a semantic crime. Indigenous is synonymous with native. It has roots and history older than the UN.

I’d explain the etymology, but I never had the latin for the judgin’.

#16 Comment By abl On July 21, 2020 @ 6:44 pm

Ivar –

Sure, but the problem is that the widespread contemporary use of the word “indigenous” (in the context of “indigenous people”) is plainly narrower than its original definition. When folks talk about “indigenous people,” they are not talking about Icelandic people living in Iceland or non-Ainu Japanese living in Japan. The term refers to Native Americans, the Maori, the Sami, etc. The UN definition is awkward, but it reflects the way that “indigenous people” is used in both the common parlance and academic discourse far better than David’s definition does.

#17 Comment By PTC On July 21, 2020 @ 8:42 pm

The term “indigenous” from a global/ academic/ other/ perspective is largely driven by the way in which the term is used to understand migration and conflict.

The word “Indigenous” is used in conflict to establish claims on territories and racial alliances. Various indigenous groups, tribes, peoples, clans etc- such as the black indigenous population in Darfur, the Montagnard’s of Vietnam, the ethnic Albanians/ Serbs of Kosovo, indigenous/ native peoples of the Americas- are defined as indigenous by themselves and by global actors. Professional militaries have large units set up to work with “indigenous” populations. For example, American Special Forces Groups.

“Indigenous” as a term also involves ethnolinguistic considerations that are not inhibited by national boundaries- such as the Pashtun in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A way of explaining migratory friction, land claims and economic mechanisms of conflict and responsibility also help define the word “indigenous.” Groups such as OGA/the WTO/ etc. use the word “indigenous” with various connotations.

The term “indigenous population” also involves internal personal feelings of belonging- as it pertains to the ethnicity of “home”- migrations/exile- the “diaspora” (such Jewish and Lebanese populations not indigenous to where they live). A longing for home.

You could spend an entire year at Williams trying to find the “real” definition of the word “indigenous.”

If you found one, you failed.

Hope that helps.

#18 Comment By PTC On July 21, 2020 @ 8:53 pm

Oh, and “indigenous” is also a word used to define style, habit, custom, and tradition.

etc. etc.

#19 Comment By PTC On July 21, 2020 @ 9:05 pm

Mene Mene explained it a lot better than I just did, by the way.

Too funny.

#20 Comment By Ivar Kronick ’91 On July 21, 2020 @ 9:41 pm

“If you found one, you failed.

Hope that helps”

Yes, it does. Thanks, PTC.

#21 Comment By Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin On July 22, 2020 @ 3:20 am

First Abilify be like: I have prescriptive relevant Political Upright definition of Indigenous. Educate yurself prole.

Then That Guy be like: Here is prescriptive UN definition of igneous peoples educate yurselfes proles. Checkmate win teacher acknkowledge.

Then Abilify be like: I am merely descriptive linguistical observer. “People” (mysterious “People”) now use indigneous in much sense more narrow than before. I mere describe. “People” are ones with say. Bring description only. Probably UN document from Guy also mere describe. They are lexicographers at UN.

Gods very mirthful at total fail in thread.

Excuse me while I sacrifice rat to Persephone upon sacred hill. Then she great goddess will grant me power to publish comments at 45° angle to rest of page in pink comic sans with small very miniature hearts for i-dots and periods. Befitting dignity and intellectual depth of discussion.

#22 Comment By Ivar Kronick ’91 On July 22, 2020 @ 7:57 am

First, I take back my last post, or is it too late like in checkers? Indigenous is a simple word and it has a simple use. Hammers are like that too. They can be used to do anything you want including smashing cash registers, but they have just one proper function which is simple.

MMTU: Pink comic sans font very fine but no please hearts! I’d join you at that temple perhaps. My neighbors have these goats strolling about which make a better offering. I get good results with them.

Of Men and Hammers: