[Main source: Law Gazette]
The Bar Council’s chair has been critical of the grouping of Black, Asian and minority ethnic lawyers, and says the BAME label ‘masks the huge under-representation of black members at the bar.’
Giving a diversity lecture, Derek Sweeting QC said ‘progress is slow and the bar is dominated by people from private schools, in particular, from Oxbridge and a certain ethnic and social background’. Additionally, he says that diversity targets will improve the bar’s situation.
Mr. Sweeting says that the legal sector should consider whether the term ‘BAME’ is a ‘cosmetic category’ to cloak the substantial under-representation of black members at the bar’.
Mr. M Ndow-Nije, a barrister and founder of Bridging the Bar, said he was part of 13 black pupils picked between 2019 and 2020. He goes on to say that “a black candidate who was applying for pupillage who had the same grades as their white counterpart at undergraduate and bar level had around half the chance of getting a pupillage than white candidates.”
In the previous year, the Bar Standards Board said all barristers’ chambers will undertake positive action and provide anti-racism training to improve diversity. The BSB also expects chambers to release a racism statement and will review the profession’s response within the next month.
The leader of a government inquiry echoed the words of the Bar Council’s chair by saying that ‘BAME’ has become an ‘increasingly irrelevant’ term. Dr Tony Sewell, chair of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, said the term usually describes levels of racial diversity in organisations and it will mask the variations in life outcomes for people in different backgrounds. Dr Sewell has promised that the commission would strive to understand the multiple factors that heavily influence inequality in different areas. It will focus on health, education, criminal justice, and employment.
Ultimately, the term ‘BAME’ is an archaic term that summarises the gathering of minority ethnic members across the legal sector but covers up the reality of the low numbers of black members across the bar and law firms. The term ‘BAME’ has to be replaced by a modern term. However, even that might not work as the modern term will detract from the underlying issue. It might even cite someone to believe that establishing another term will resolve the matter and another person who will strongly disagree with that point of view. We need a term that incorporates all ethnic minorities and helps those excluded ethnic minority groups to feel they are not forgotten. Will the term be replaced, or will ‘BAME’ remain in existence?