What We're Reading: BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and the Power and Limitations of Umbrella Terms

From the MacArthur Foundation: Kristen Mack, Vice President, Communications, Fellows, and Partnerships, shares thinking on umbrella terms, which are intended to be inclusive but often come up short when discussing complex and evolving identities.

"Umbrellas provide shade, shelter, and protection. They also serve as a symbol of power and dignity. Umbrella terms, as an extension, are designed to cover a broad category of groups or things. BIPOC and LGBTQ+, two of the most well-known and frequently used umbrella terms, have power. They also have limitations."

"We have increasingly heard that the very thing these umbrella terms were designed to do—include more people under one broad categorization—has not worked. In fact, they have had the opposite intended effect. More people feel left out than included."

"While the term Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) is meant to be inclusive, it is imperfect and imprecise. Although BIPOC includes Asian and Latino/a/x people as well as other racial and ethnic groups, the acronym does not resonate with everyone it was meant to embrace. We must acknowledge that many individuals and communities do not see themselves represented by the term because they are not specifically named. We have heard from people—repeatedly, vehemently, and clearly—that they are offended by its use."

"We first received that feedback during several conversations with grantees, peers, and affinity-based philanthropic organizations as part of our Equitable Recovery grantmaking. We went through an extended exercise of identifying characteristics that define what it meant to be a BIPOC-led, -centered, or -serving organization. Around that time, we began to use the term more frequently in our writing and communication, just as the rest of the U.S. and field of philanthropy was doing the same."

"MacArthur is a learning organization. Learning is one of our values. As the lexicon evolves, we will continue to actively seek new understanding and knowledge and apply what we learn as we go.'

"Language conveys values. Language can be used to either support or challenge the systems we seek to dismantle. We want people to see themselves in the language we use—in our grant briefs, in our website copy, at our events, in our grantmaking, and in our work."

"We hope that by consciously and intentionally focusing on our language that we are affirming the dignity of people of the people and communities we seek to serve."

Read the full article here.