Policy Corner: Why we decided to capitalize the B in 'Black'

  • Jim Baumann

    Jim Baumann

 
 
Updated 7/5/2020 11:28 AM

In mid-June the Daily Herald adopted a change in its style that now capitalizes the B in "Black" to identify a people of shared identity.

We've fielded a few letters from readers asking why we decided to do that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Since there has been extensive literature and research indicating there is no substantial biologic difference between the 'races,' this seems to me to be a step backward in time, emphasizing our alleged difference rather than our shared humanity, perpetuating the 'otherness' of peoples of different ethnic backgrounds," one reader wrote.

AP's decision was not made in a bubble. Nor was it a snap judgment.

A century ago, when "negro" was still a widely-used word, a founder of the NAACP lobbied newspapers to uppercase "Negro" as a way to recognize centuries of being made to feel less than others. Newspapers adopted the capital N back then.

Today, Black people are yearning for similar treatment and consideration, there has been a push from Black leaders for a while now to capitalize the B.

Part of AP's decision -- and ours, beyond the practical nature of following AP style -- is a show of respect. Part of it is acknowledgment that language changes with the times. The reason AP puts out a new stylebook each year is that language is a constantly changing thing. It changes with technology, with social movements, with science. You name it.

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The letter writer is correct. There are no significant biological differences between the races, but there have been attitudinal differences toward Black people since the days when white people owned them.

If the capital B helps Black people feel less disenfranchised, why not capitalize it?

Our hope is that by doing so it can actually help erase the "otherness" many Black people have always felt.

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