HEALTH Health

Uniting people of all colors

The acronym for Black Indigenous and People of Other Colour, the term gained traction on the internet when the #BlackLivesMatter movement started growing in the wake of George Floyd's death in the US in May. Young people, aware of the intersectionality of politics and culture, and unwilling to be pushed around agenda-driven impositions, brought conversations around BIPOC to the fore, to unite people of all colours and expand its ambit.

As different voices and aspirations amplified to acknowledge (rather than dehumanise) diversity in skin colour, race, and hair, it was in the midst of the COVID pandemic that the BIPOC movement went beyond a trend to advocate for inclusivity across all areas of life, from politics to beauty pigments.

Though we haven't heard much about it in the Indian context, there is a positive impact in embracing BIPOC, says Prof.Gita Sen, director of social determinants of health at the Public Health Foundation of India, Bengaluru. The force behind such a movement has to do with the narrative and who/what controls the society. Everyone has the right to take care of their body, mind, and soul, she says, and agrees that the so-called norms are dictated by the domination of multi-billion dollar industries.

Invisible discrimination has damaging effect on wellness in general in the long run. A classic case in point is that of the cosmetics industry that for long failed to distinguish different identities. A limited number of products that catered mostly to a particular skin colour meant that the 'me' blurs, as the mindset to surrender to outward appearances rules and the fallacy of aligning with the popular can make us feel lesser than our real worth, says Delhi-based dermatologist Dr. Navjyot Arora with Manipal Hospitals. He reminds us that when communities are under-represented, they also remain outside the gambit of any medical research.

This whitewashing of the skin (women often opt for a foundation colour much lighter than her own) so that a native of Ladakh, an adivasi from Jharkhand, tribal from Wayanad all look the same, perpetuates stereotypes, and is one of the factors for poor mental health.

The BIPOC movement can, to some extent, normalise and powerfully empower even the most ordinary, neglected and marginalised. "People of Colour may not have a resonance in India yet and the impetus is not directly health-related but it surely has health implications," says Prof.Gita.

The cross-racial movement is coming of age with BIPOC beauty brands -- specifically meant for women of colour to enhance their beauty routine -- now entering the market. It at least shows the recognition of the diversity. July was in fact observed as BIPOC mental health month to underline that the spectrum of existence and experience can be respected.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 2:36:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/what-is-bipoc-and-how-the-movement-recognises-diversity/article32486150.ece

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