Social Justice Usage
Source: The BIPOC Project, mission statement
The BIPOC Project aims to build authentic and lasting solidarity among Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), in order to undo Native invisibility, anti-Blackness, dismantle white supremacy and advance racial justice.
We use the term BIPOC 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. We unapologetically focus on and center relationships among BIPOC folks.
New Discourses Commentary
“BIPOC” is an acronym that stands for one or both of either “Black and Indigenous People of Color” or “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color,” depending on the author and the context. (It is also sometimes rendered “IBPOC,” with the clearly analogous meanings.) It is, in that sense, clearly a refinement of the broader acronym “POC,” for people of color. In both cases, the additional letters have been added to draw attention to and to specify that black and indigenous people are in a higher category of oppression than other people of color, which advocates of the term believe is erased by a catch-all term for non-white people. In fact, part of the reason for BIPOC existing at all is an argument that “people of color” was a term created by white people specifically so that they could ignore the important differences in oppression between different non-white identity groups and lump them all into a single “non-white” category to be set against whiteness. (This is likely to be partially true—it may have been created by white people, probably at the demands of not-white people—and mostly false—it was more likely created to satisfy a set of linguistic demands under a broad rubric of “political correctness” and not to willfully ignore racial differences as an intentional act of white domination.)
As a term, “BIPOC” is therefore easily understood. It is, in the first meaning, those “people of color” who are specifically black and/or indigenous. In the second, it is all people of color with extra attention drawn to black and indigenous groups. In both cases, the point is clearly to highlight black and indigenous status within or against “of color” status. The need, according to the Theory of Critical Social Justice, for such a specific designation, however, may require some explanation. Despite being nominally anti-hierarchical, Critical Social Justice is absolutely obsessed with the hierarchy of privilege and oppression in society (see also, systemic power), which it attempts to understand with intersectionality and articulate in the Matrix of Domination. Indeed, it would be approximately correct to say that reifying and analyzing this identity hierarchy in exquisite detail is the raison d’etre for Critical Social Justice (see also, conflict theory and Cultural Marxism).
This obsession with racial hierarchy is so pointed that anything that could possibly take away from the recognition of a relevant privilege (to be identified, problematized, disrupted, and dismantled) or oppression (to be liberated from and, in the meantime, used as collateral for applying positional standpoint epistemology) is itself something that is profoundly problematic and, in all likelihood, a hallmark of the specific problem of being privileged enough to be able to ignore it. Thus, though an artifact of political correctness culture itself, the term “people of color” is a problematic term that obscures the uniquely severe oppression of black and indigenous people and, in the name of solidarity, would prevent criticism of the relative privilege of other racial minorities (see also, brown privilege, brown complicity, brown fragility, and model minority). Clearly, given the workings of intersectionality, this demands correction, and thus we get BIPOC (the relative victimhood status battle between the B and the I is ongoing, despite the clear victory of the B and the I over the rest of the POC).
In this sense, “BIPOC” is a necessary consequence of intersectionality and, potentially, a first step in an “alphabet people”-style expansion of the acronym to indicate relative status within the Matrix of Domination. (Hence, we see the disagreement between “BIPOC” and “IBPOC,” despite the fact that both acronyms refer to the same group of people.) That is, like how the LGBT acronym has, in some cases, expanded to include dozens of letters and some symbols (like “+”), all arranged in a particular order that is only ever (mostly) stable in the L, G, B, and T (probably for branding reasons) and partially reflects relative levels of privilege and oppression otherwise, it is possible that “BIPOC” could expand to codify in a useless acronym more (or, in theory, all) non-white racial categories with the order in which the letters are listed reflecting relative privilege levels in the racial hierarchy Theory insists it is not establishing.
See also, people of color.
Brown complicity; Brown fragility; Brown privilege; Conflict theory; Critical; Cultural Marxism; Dismantle; Disrupt; Erasure; Identity; Indigeneity; Intersectionality; Liberation; Matrix of Domination; Model minority; Oppression; People of color; Political correctness; Positionality; Power (systemic); Privilege; Problematic; Problematize; Social Justice; Solidarity; Standpoint epistemology; Theory; Truth; Victimhood; White; Whiteness; Willful ignorance
Revision date: 11/5/20