Why Do We Capitalize the “B” in Black but not the “W” in White?
Providing space for Black Americans to reclaim their roots
The Associated Press guidelines on word usage state that when a writer is referring to Black people in a racial, cultural or ethnic sense, the “B” should be capitalized.
But when it comes to white people, we don’t capitalize the “w.” WTF? With a capital W.
This follows similar guidelines across most media outlets, although not surprisingly, more conservative ones opt to stick with capital W for White to describe that “ethnic group.” Oh, Fox News.
This capital B in Black usage “when referring to (and out of respect for) the Black diaspora” came at the urging of the National Association of Black Journalists.
While nobody should lose any sleep over these seemingly inconsistent standards for a mere word, doesn’t it seem a bit odd and maybe even unfair to white folks?
Don’t white people count as much as Black people? You know, that All Lives Matter stuff.
The thing is, Black reflects a shared sense of identity and community. They have shared life experiences. A sense of belonging and comraderie.
“White” does not.
You may have white friends. Your community may even have similar white skin. But there’s no “identity” or shared community just for being white. Let’s be honest — the only ones who might think so are white supremacists. And why would we want to follow their lead?
Of course we capitalize the “I” in Irish in Irish Americans. Or Italian in Italian Americans.
We’ve been capitalizing ethnic groups, including Asian, Hispanic, Jewish African American and Native American, for ages.
So all we’re doing when we capitalize Black and not white is following AP’s well-accepted writing guidelines, as well as the Chicago Manual of Style’s (§8.38) edict that states “names of ethnic and national groups are capitalized.”
There just isn’t a white ethnic group unless you’re a Proud Boy, Nazi or Klansman.