Associated Press explains its capitalization of Black and white

The AP, arbiter of writing style in thousands of new publications, today explained why its June decision to capitalize Black in reference to ethnicity and culture will not be followed by capitalizing white in such contexts.

These are some of AP’s reasons for using Black and white in reference to race and ethnicity:

Book cover for 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans* “There was clear desire and reason to capitalize Black. … There is, at this time, less support for capitalizing white. White people generally do not share the same history and culture, or the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color. In addition, we are a global news organization and in much of the world there is considerable disagreement, ambiguity and confusion about whom the term includes.”

* “… Capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”

* “Some have expressed the belief that if we don’t capitalize white, we are being inconsistent and discriminating against white people or, conversely, that we are implying that white is the default. We also recognize the argument that capitalizing the term could pull white people more fully into issues and discussions of race and equality. We will closely watch how usage and thought evolves, and will periodically review our decision.”

The Bias Busters series has capitalized both terms for several years. Our student authors were swayed by the consistency argument and noted that Black identification is also complicated, ambiguous and confusing. The students noted that supremacists capitalize Black and not White and that some publications do the opposite. This helped push them toward being consistent.

The AP wrote, “We will closely watch how usage and thought evolves, and will periodically review our decision.”

Tell us what you think.

“100 Questions and Answers About Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

This entry was posted in African Americans, Ethnicity & Race. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Associated Press explains its capitalization of Black and white

  1. Linda L Haghi says:

    Capitalizing Black but not White will make White people even more afraid than they already are that they are being marginalized and are not being treated equally. Let’s be consistent – if we capitalize one racial or ethnic group, let’s capitalize them all, so there’s true equity.

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