Last month, the Associated Press updated their stylebook, codifying the capitalization of the word “black” when it’s used “in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa.”
In response to this update, I publicly asked John Daniszewski, the AP’s vice president for Standards, “why aren’t all racial groups treated equally” in the updated stylebook.
Though I never got a response, the Associated Press most certainly received repeated inquiries about their decision to capitalize “black” but not “white” or other colors used in reference to a racial group.
When the change was made last month, I openly posed the question as to whether the change was racist. After all, if the lower-case “b” was such an insult to black people, then why shouldn’t the lower-case “w” be an insult to white people?
The Associated Press addressed this issue on Monday, with Daniszewski writing in the AP Style Blog a post titled, “Why we will lowercase white.”
“AP style will continue to lowercase the term white in racial, ethnic and cultural senses,” Daniszewski wrote. “This decision follows our move last month to capitalize Black in such uses. We consulted with a wide group of people internally and externally around the globe and considered a variety of commentary in making these decisions.”
“There was clear desire and reason to capitalize Black. Most notably, people who are Black have strong historical and cultural commonalities, even if they are from different parts of the world and even if they now live in different parts of the world,” he wrote.
Because white people don’t have strong historical and cultural commonalities? I suspect a large portion of white people can trace their origins to Europe. But, I guess that doesn’t count.
Ah, but here’s the difference, according to Daniszewski. In addition to the “strong historical and cultural commonalities” black people have regardless of what part of the world they come from, they also have “the shared experience of discrimination due solely to the color of one’s skin.”
So, capitalizing a ‘b’ is really about fighting racism. Perhaps to the Associated Press, capitalization of the word black is a form of reparations.
Well, I’m glad that solves everything.
But what about the specific decision not to capitalize “white”?
“There is, at this time, less support for capitalizing white,” according to Daniszewski. “White people generally do not share the same history and culture, or the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color.”
Except the systemic racism of racial quotas and racial preferences in admissions and hiring, but whatever.
Oh, it gets better, though. Daniszewski continues by saying, “We agree that white people’s skin color plays into systemic inequalities and injustices, and we want our journalism to robustly explore those problems. But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”
White supremacy! Capitalizing “white” is apparently a thing of white supremacists. So obviously the prudent thing to do is capitalize “black”! That will really really stick it to those grammar-obsessed white supremacists and doesn’t at all imply the supremacy of black people.
“Some have expressed the belief that if we don’t capitalize white, we are being inconsistent and discriminating against white people,” continued Daniszewski. “Or, conversely, that we are implying that white is the default.”
Ya think? Nevertheless, Daniszewski pointed out that the decision could change in the future. “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.”
Yeah, I’m sure they will. In the meantime, the AP stylebook is officially racist.
Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump, and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis