What Is…BIPOC?

Some terms are criticized as social justice jargon. However, many of these terms are important to know about and understand.

Over the past couple of years, one term that has increased in usage is BIPOC. This term has seen a particularly significant increase in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.[1]

But what is BIPOC, and why is that term significant?

In short, BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. However, it is more than “just” an acronym—it is an acronym that is meant 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.”[2]

In reading many of the sentiments of those who like the term BIPOC, one common theme seems to be how the term reinforces the connections between Black and Indigenous people in experiencing racism in an America. In a way, BIPOC is an acronym of solidarity. While there may be certain experiences of Black people that differ from certain experiences of Indigenous people (for example, how some Black families still grapple with the legacy of slavery and segregation while some Indigenous families grapple with the legacies of Indian boarding schools), there is also that commonality in experiencing that relationship to whiteness that links Black and Indigenous people.

It is worth noting that there is another acronym different from BIPOC, yet also related: POC. POC stands for people of color. Before the events of the past year and a few months, I seldom saw BIPOC but commonly saw POC on social media and elsewhere.

My mention of POC, of course, provokes another question: Does this mean that we should use BIPOC instead of POC from now on? If a 2020 National Public Radio piece which asks the same question is an indicator of anything, opinions are divided on the question.[3] There are strong opinions on this question, but also differing ones. I personally do not feel it is in my place to be involved in the debate over whether to use BIPOC or POC, as I don’t fall under the POC/BIPOC umbrella.

What I do feel, though, is that for those of us who aren’t POC/BIPOC, we should understand both acronyms and their significance. Yet, at the same time, we should be ready to understand what is being talked about when we hear or see others talk about POC or BIPOC, and be ready to use either acronym depending on what our POC/BIPOC neighbors, friends, and colleagues prefer. Hopefully, those who have read this post will now have a greater understanding of both terms when they are used.

[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bipoc-meaning-where-does-it-come-from-2020-04-02/

[2] https://www.thebipocproject.org/

[3] https://www.npr.org/2020/09/29/918418825/is-it-time-to-say-r-i-p-to-p-o-c

12 Replies to “What Is…BIPOC?”

    1. Thanks! And these are good questions.

      With regards to your first question, my understanding is that POC in BIPOC are people who are nonwhite yet are neither Indigenous nor Black (as opposed to the term POC, which lumps in all persons of color, including those who are Indigenous and Black). And as for the second question, I haven’t found any origins on when the BIPOC acronym started, though it has definitely gained traction in the past year or so.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I view BIPOC as a gateway to divide and conquer. Separate Blacks and Native Amerians from POC. By the way I believe POC was coined by Black people now by hook or crook we are being excluded. You can tell I don’t like the acronym BIPOC. Do you know how the acronym was started? Is it trying to separate from Black people from brown people?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The earliest reference to BIPOC that can be found is from 2013 (it seems to be from something sex positivity-related in Toronto): https://mobile.twitter.com/GrindToronto/status/362594656913080320

        It’s hard to say whether this tweet is the true origins of BIPOC (especially given the modest following this Twitter account has) as well as how it became so popular after the murder of George Floyd last year but it’s certainly the earliest documented evidence of it being used.

        As for your other question, the answer is yes, insofar as many proponents of BIPOC argue that it highlights the experiences that Black and Indigenous people in particular have with racism in a way the term POC does not. Which I’m guessing also gets to the crux of your issues with the term, from the sound of things (though please correct me if I am wrong).

        Out of curiosity, just so that I am clear, do you prefer POC then? Or are you not a fan of POC either?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for the history. Funny how BIPOC came about. I wondered if white people made it up to divide and conquer. White Americans need to separate Blacks and Native Americans from Asiana and Hispanics. It makes it easier to target us with oppressive policies. That was my thinking.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Some people will always find an excuse to despise and abuse those who simply look different. This was evident when a man, who ironically was non-white, wearing a red “Keep America Great” cap (with “45” on the side) called a nine-year-old girl wearing a hijab a “f—–g Muslim terrorist” at a Surrey, B.C. grocery store earlier this year. The girl’s father rightly confronted the man and repeatedly called him a racist.

        As far as terrorism goes, the girl’s family is far more likely to be fleeing extremist violence abroad than planning to perpetrate it elsewhere. But that ironic fact may not matter, anyway; ‘their kind’ are still not welcome.


  1. I hate both terms. I am Black. I am not a Person of Color. (I wrote about this.) Lumping everyone together often speaks to no one. If you mean Black say Black, etc etc. Also many POC are anti-Black. It’s a lot. I hate both terms.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Helpful post for those who have not been following this and the truly most helpful part of your post is your strong suggestion of allowing people to name themselves. That is the essence of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. The important thing is to understand what POC and BIPOC mean, so that we know how to respond when people around us use those terms (regardless of what each person prefers).


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