Ask Us: Why do newspaper articles capitalize Black but not white?

Published 7:49 pm Monday, June 20, 2022

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

SALISBURY — A reader sent in a question regarding the capitalization of Black in Associated Press style while white is lower case.

It was emphasized that the curiosity came from a grammatical consistency perspective and if this is explained in the AP stylebook.

On June 19, 2020, the Associated Press announced it would make Black uppercase when used in race, ethnicity and culture following the protests of George Floyd’s death. This change was updated in the 55th edition of its stylebook.

An article on the organization’s website, “Explaining AP style on Black and white,” explained the change, which stated “AP’s style is now to capitalize Black 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.”

The Associated Press further explains that the decision aligns from long-standing capitalization of distinct racial and ethnic identifiers such as Latino, Asian American and Native American. Additionally, it said that white individuals have not shared the same experience of discrimination because of their skin color, nor have they shared the same history and culture.

The 55th edition of the AP stylebook outlines when to use the terms when identifying people’s race as the words are not to be used as singular nouns, but instead adjectives with examples such as Black people, white people, Black teachers and white students. Plural nouns such as Blacks and whites are acceptable for sentence construction and needed space or when it is clearly relevant.

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