In England, people of African heritage have been lumped together with others and variously described as ‘ethnics’, ‘ethnic minorities’ and ‘minority ethnics’. The latest labels being used are ‘BAME’ which is an acronym for ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic’ or ‘Black and Minority Ethnic’.
All these labels were not chosen by the groups of people that they are applied to and all of them erase the individual and position the people classified within them as a group with the identical features and characteristics. To a certain extent, it’s not the labels that they call us that matter but the value that is placed on them. All the labels are interchangeable and they all mean the same thing, you’re not like us, you’re not one of us, you don’t have the same value and we don’t recognise your humanity.
It provides an example of why language is important and especially when the words being used to describe you are used by you or by others, to describe you.
The etymology or origin of the word is that it is derived from the Greek word, ethnikos, which means heathen.
The US website lexicon.com gives further detail for both the English and US definition of the word:
neither Christian nor Jewish; pagan or heathen.
noun: ethnic; plural noun: ethnics