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One Writer's Ravings:
A Logophile's Blog
for Language Lovers

Should We Capitalize "Black" and "White"?

The Associated Press and many newspapers have recently decided to capitalize "Black" because of all the protests and the increased attention to Black Lives Matter, but there is still no accord on what to do with "white." The AP recommends capitalizing both words, but in The New York Times and other publications I have seen uppercase "Black" paired with lowercase "white." My local paper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, is capitalizing both, which makes best sense to me because I like consistency in style.


I have to confess, though, that the whole thing seems like an after-the-fact, white-guilt stylistic handout, a self-conscious and, as my kids would say, "privileged" way of conferring some sort of status and dignity with the stroke of a pen. "Whoops — sorry we haven't been nice enough to you in the past, so now we're going to give you a big 'B,' which should make you feel better." And as far as I can tell, there wasn't any pressure from black people to do this; it was a "White" ruling-class editorial decision. What I can't figure out yet is, what's the point? Is it supposed to confer dignity or assuage white guilt?


Consider the now-ancient ambivalence over "Negro/negro" and "Colored/colored," not to mention "Afro-American" and "African-American," and you have to ask, Is this just another typographical gesture engineered by progressives to exonerate themselves? Styling it "Black" and "white" is clearly stupid because it says we're faking or forcing an obsequious nod to those we've always forced to be obsequious, while "Black" and "White," though less noxious, show only that, as Trump once disgustingly put it, "There are very fine people on both sides." So my vote is for continuing to style them both lowercase and getting on with the "good trouble, necessary trouble" that the late, great, fearless John Lewis advocated.

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