Better than BIPOC

62 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2023 Last revised: 17 Mar 2023

See all articles by Meera E. Deo

Meera E. Deo

Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE); Southwestern Law School; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: March 8, 2023

Abstract

Race and racism evolve over time, as does the language of antiracism. Yet nascent terms of resistance are not always better than originals. Without the deep investment of community engagement and review, new labels—like BIPOC—run the risk of causing more harm than good. This Article argues that using BIPOC (which stands for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color”) as a synonym for People of Color not only does a disservice to the People of Color history and legacy, but also is a dangerous example of virtue signaling that promises symbolic progress without meaningful change. Applying this thesis to the context of legal education using empirical data from law students and law faculty, it becomes evident that People of Color is the appropriate term to use when making comparisons to whites; similarly, Women of Color works best when considering raceXgender intersectionality. Furthermore, academics, advocates, and allies should recognize that while pursuing commonalities and drawing from shared experiences is often critical for political and strategic purposes, aggregating disparate groups under one umbrella, whatever term is used, risks obscuring marginalized populations. In these instances, we should be even more precise in naming each community individually, which serves the twin goals of promoting accuracy in reporting and furthering anti-subordination.

Keywords: racism, legal education, empirical research, law and language, people of color

Suggested Citation

Deo, Meera E., Better than BIPOC (March 8, 2023). Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Vol. 41, No. 71, 2023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4381823

Meera E. Deo (Contact Author)

Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) ( email )

1900 E. Tenth Street Eigenmann Hall
Suite 419
Bloomington, IN 47406-7512
United States

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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