“Black” vs. “white”: a typographical decision

July 2, 2020 • 9:30 am

A typographical decision may seem minor, but this one isn’t trivial, for it bears on race relations in America and how we see them and characterize them in language.

In my lifetime, the acceptable word for African-Americans has morphed from “Negro” to “colored people” to “blacks”, and then to “African-Americans” and now “people of color” (the latter also includes Asians, Hispanic, and other unrelated populations united by a darker skin color).  The last three terms are currently acceptable, and I use all three. When I’ve used “black,” however, I didn’t capitalize it, nor did I capitalize “white”, even though they could be taken to denote populations. (“Race”, as I’ve written before, is not entirely a social construct, as it does does say something about genetics, though the idea that there are a finite number of discrete and easily distinguishable “races” is simply not true in biology. That’s why I use “population” or “ethnic group” instead of the fraught term “race.”)

The term “African-American” seems a bit off to me, because while blacks are almost entirely descended from African ancestors, they are 100% American now, and should we designate all people by their ancestry, making me a “Russian-American”? And of course many people are of mixed race. Well, as long as the terms for “black” aren’t seen as offensive, I will use what seems appropriate.

But when I saw “Black” capitalized in some places but “white” written in lower case in the same places,  I thought that was inappropriate—almost a reverse form of bigotry saying that somehow blacks deserved capitalization and whites did not. There isn’t really a biological justification for distinguishing them in this way.

It can be only a social justification, but that doesn’t seem right, either. And yet John Eligon, in the New York Times article below, notes that the increasing use of “Blacks” versus “whites” is largely based on a supposed difference in social experience.  At any rate, newsrooms are struggling with the capitalization problem, with this article, written 6 days ago, reporting that the Times and the Washington Post hadn’t yet decided what to do.

But this article, published four days later, seems to show that at last the Times has come down on the capitalized “Black” and lower-case “white”. A screenshot:

I haven’t checked the Washington Post yet.

Eligon’s article notes that not all African-Americans adhere to the capitalization difference, or even to the term “Black” itself. One of them is Jesse Jackson:

“Black is a color,” said the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader who popularized the term “African-American” in an effort to highlight the cultural heritage of those with ancestral ties to Africa. “We built the country through the African slave trade. African-American acknowledges that. Any term that emphasizes the color and not the heritage separates us from our heritage.”

Given that those who favor this usage see race as a social construct without biological roots, there can be no basis in biology for this usage. And, indeed, the rationale for the usage is based on a narrative and character supposedly shared by all African-Americans and distinguishing them absolutely from whites. (By the way, “Black” is supposed to be used only for “African-Americans”, which leaves one wondering how you designate, say, the black versus white inhabitants of other countries, like those of South Africa).

And, indeed, it is the “shared experience” of Blacks that, according to those in the article who favor the capitalization difference, mandate an uppercase “B” and a lowercase “w”:

The capitalization of black, which has been pushed for years, strikes at deeper questions over the treatment of people of African descent, who were stripped of their identities and enslaved in centuries past, and whose struggles to become fully accepted as part of the American experience continue to this day.

“Blackness fundamentally shapes any core part of any black person’s life in the U.S. context, and really around the world,” said Brittney Cooper, an associate professor at Rutgers University whose latest book, “Eloquent Rage,” explores black feminism. “In the choice to capitalize, we are paying homage to a history with a very particular kind of political engagement.”

I’m not sure how exactly they mean “blackness shapes any core part of a black person’s life . . .around the world”. That would seem to reduce the diversity of black people’s characters and lives to one common factor, presumably oppression, but even that is not always the case in places where blacks are in the majority. But let’s hear more:

For proponents of capitalizing black, there are grammatical reasons — it is a proper noun, referring to a specific group of people with a shared political identity, shaped by colonialism and slavery. But some see it as a moral issue as well.

It confers a sense of power and respect to black people, who have often been relegated to the lowest rungs of society through racist systems, black scholars say.

“Race as a concept is not real in the biological sense, but it’s very real for our own identities,” said Whitney Pirtle, an assistant professor of sociology specializing in critical race theory at the University of California, Merced. “I think that capitalizing B both sort of puts respect to those identities, but also alludes to the humanities.”

But if blackness is very real for one’s identities, is not whiteness as well? Not in the sense that all white people share a common culture, especially around the world, but in the sense that they are seen as monolithic oppressors of black people—indeed, of all people of color. My colleague Eve Ewing, a sociologist and poet who works at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, calls for capitalization of both nouns:

Yes, for if you adhere to Critical Race Theory (CRT), which undergirds this movement, you will see that Whiteness is indeed a “thing”, albeit not a thing that most of us would like to be part of: our enjoyment of privilege couple with our oppression of others:

From the CRT perspective, the white skin that some Americans possess is akin to owning a piece of property, in that it grants privileges to the owner that a renter (in this case, a person of color) would not be afforded.  Cheryl I. Harris and Gloria Ladson-Billings describe this notion of whiteness as property, whereby whiteness is the ultimate property that whites alone can possess; valuable just like property. The property functions of whiteness—i.e., rights to disposition; rights to use and enjoyment, reputation, and status property; and the absolute right to exclude—make the American dream more likely and attainable for whites as citizens.

And one of the tenets of CRT:

  • White privilege: Belief in the notion of a myriad of social advantages, benefits, and courtesies that come with being a member of the dominant race (i.e. white people). A clerk not following you around in a store or not having people cross the street at night to avoid you, are two examples of white privilege.

So yes, according to CRT, or any of those who see blackness as a fundamentally shared property of African-Americans, part of the core of their being, it’s hard to construe that core as not involving oppression. (And, indeed, oppression of blacks has been omnipresent throughout American history.) And whiteness is as surely a property of whites as blackness is of blacks: they are two sides of the same coin, deriving from slavery.

Given that both blacks and white are supposed to have shared moral (or immoral) properties, and there is no fundamental biological reason to capitalize one and not the other, I see no coherent case for writing “Black” and “white”. I suspect that a lot of the movement behind this intends to confer dignity on African-Americans but not on oppressive whites. The conferring of dignity on an oppressed group is laudable, but if you capitalize one “social construct” race, you must capitalize them all. Would you say “asians” or “hispanics”?

What will I do? Probably write either “blacks and white” or “Blacks and Whites”, but I won’t capitalize only one of them.  There’s no good reason to do that.

And, as usual, I invite readers to weigh in below on this.


88 thoughts on ““Black” vs. “white”: a typographical decision

  1. The only good reason I can think of for capitalizing Black as opposed to black is that it can function as a broader term denoting a political identity (i.e. including Hispanics, Indians etc.) and thus more or less stand in for “people of colour” (a term I dislike, partly because of its ponderous inversion and partly because there is essentially no semantic difference from the now despised term “coloured people” — if you’re going to object to the latter, you can’t really promote the former).

    More generally though, I’m wary of weight being placed on minutely distinguished usages that are only meaningful in writing and not in speech. If it’s not something you can say, is it worth writing?

    1. If it’s not something you can say, is it worth writing?

      In general I’m in agreement with Samuel Johnson’s metonomy-and-synecdoche blending aphorism: “The pen must at length comply with the tongue.”

      Nevertheless, I think your assertion proves a bit too much. Capitalization remains a useful signifier in writing (for the start of each new sentence, at the very least). And it’s often used to connote respect. In legal writing, for example, “the Court” (as opposed to “the court”) signifies one is speaking of SCOTUS as opposed to a lower tribunal. I’d certainly never dare address a judge in writing without capitalizing “Your Honor,” for that matter.

      1. No indeed, but it may be useful in some circumstances to find a single term grouping together non-whites.

  2. Reading this post made me realize that I’ve never had to answer this question. If I were writing, I’d probably capitalize both.

    1. Not sure anyone would be well-served to employ The Donald’s twitter feed as a style guide.

      But then, one man’s meat Covfefe is another man’s poison. 🙂

  3. I agree with what you’ve written here. Capitalizing one but not the other is absurd. If we capitalized white in, say, the 1920s but not black, surely people would have been calling for some sort of equality by capitalizing both.

    Capitalizing both or none makes the most sense.

    Then again, American racial categories are always fraught with bizarre problems.

    Why do we say white and black but not yellow, brown, or red?

    Why do we say Asian but not European or African?

    What does an “Asian” from India or Pakistan have in common with an “Asian” from Japan or Korea?

    1. There’s a tendency on the part of some race activists to strive for something called overcompensatory adjustment. It’s encapsulated by the idea that ‘if we had to put up with it then you can’t complain now you have to put up with it’. In narrower terms you might just call it a(very minor) form of payback.

      Some black activists feel like they can routinely express blanket contempt for white liberals, eg. call us ‘whitey’, talk about us as an indistinguishable blob.
      And generally they’re not called out on it because people, myself included, understand that black people have had to put up with much worse for centuries. So there’s leeway given there.

      And it can’t help but niggle. It’s not so much the epithets or the blanket contempt that I have a problem with(although I do), it’s the fact that by accepting all of that stuff as a given we are moving away from an egalitarian, MLK-ian concept of racial progress. One where no-one should make racial assumptions, full stop.

      I don’t think anything is gained by overcompensating: equality means equality. If someone says something derogatory about me based on my race I will call them on it. Nothing is gained by telling one side they now have free shots at the other side.

      1. I was watching one of the city council meetings where it was decided that various monuments were to be destroyed.
        One of the African-American activists leading the effort, in her first sentence after the vote, warned “don’t think this makes it even”.
        That tells me she is keeping score, and wants to inflict on a White folks an amount of suffering equal equivalent to the centuries of slavery that she did not experience, and which the current population did not inflict on anyone.
        But that is intersectionality.

        As for the capitalization thing, both or none.

        1. Not only doesn’t removing statues make it even, it shouldn’t even count. As I see it, the whole thing with the statues is going to hurt the chances of real progress. It’s purely symbolic. Don’t get me wrong, symbols count but which statues are removed is being decided by mobs.

          Some should be removed, like those of Confederate generals. However, the manner in which they are being removed gives no real lessons to the community. It is purely power. They missed an opportunity to get buy in. Those that want the statues to remain didn’t see that their community voted and reached a decision to remove them. Instead, they see it as something the other side forced on them.

  4. [ looks around the room ]

    The word “transparent” on the box of tape I see is capitalized to “Transparent”. Was this meant to be taken personally?

  5. The word at the beginning of a sentence is always capitalized.

    There’s a joke to be made here using the other definition of “sentence”, but I’ll refrain from making one.

    And of course, except for poetry by e.e. cummings, etc.





    1. How many of those other countries decoupled and fought a civil war (killing 625,000 — 2% of the then-US population, and more than were killed in all other US wars combined) over the issue of slavery, followed by near to a century of the apartheid system called “Jim Crow”?

      Shouldn’t take a whole lotta wondering on their parts to figure out.

      1. Any country that criticises the US for that is hypocritical. Other countries may not be race-obsessed, but that’s only because they’re inevitably obsessed about some other form of human division.

        Nationalism. Religious sectarianism. Tribal feuds. Celtic vs Rangers. Marmite: good or bad?

        There isn’t a country on earth that doesn’t obsess about the differences between some groups and other groups. Anyone who disagrees should spend an evening watching the Eurovision Song Contest, watching the miserly way some eastern bloc country allocates points to a neighbour because it invaded them 800 years ago.

        1. I agree (almost) absolutely – I suspect the death toll from the Marmite Wars have been exaggerated.

          1. Tread carefully here…I know which side I’m on and I don’t tolerate dissent. I’m a liberal generally, but a Marmite-fascist specifically. Ruddy horrible.

        2. “There isn’t a country on earth that doesn’t obsess about the differences between some groups and other groups.”

          Yes, describing someone as unhealthy is hypocritical because nobody is completely healthy.

        3. … watching the miserly way some eastern bloc country allocates points to a neighbour because it invaded them 800 years ago.

          I’m old enough to remember the East German judges at the Olympics being infamously geizig when it came to scoring western competitors.

        4. Celtic vs Rangers is both a religious sectarian and a tribal feud. As for your allusion to the ESC – I still miss the East German judges at the Olympics.

        1. More obsessed — you mean more obsessed than when one race owned another as chattel slaves? More obsessed than when the races were forbidden to use the same restrooms and swimming pools or to eat at the same lunch counters? More obsessed than when one race was redlined from desirable neighborhoods?

          It’s not a matter of more obsession; it’s a matter of the obsession being closer to the surface and of its having a more egalitarian spread across communities — something that can come as quite a shock to white folk who never had to think about it much before.

          One way or another, the obsession has been with us always. Right now, triggered by the brutal public murder of George Floyd, there is a certain much-needed consciousness-raising going on across the US (analogous in its way to what happened with the “Me Too” movement).

          1. I am not convinced you actually care about improving the lives of disadvantaged black people (or other disadvantaged people)

            If you want to help the disadvantaged in the US you need to avoid emotional post-modern cliches infested with a new form of racism and sexism.

            “you mean more obsessed than when one race owned another as chattel slaves?”
            Imagine a primary school with children from various ethnicities. Are the white children guilty of slavery?

            It is like Jewish children being told that they are guilty of murdering Jesus.

        2. What is your claim that “you [Americans] are getting more [race] obsessed by the hour” but an “emotional … cliche”?

          Convincing you that I “actually care about improving the lives of disadvantaged black people (or other disadvantaged people)” is not my goal here, Eric.

          1. “Convincing you that I “actually care about improving the lives of disadvantaged black people (or other disadvantaged people)” is not my goal here, Eric.”

            FAIR POINT, I was out of line and I apologize. (I am getting emotional too!)

            My concern is that both left and right are worked into a frenzy and that sound policies to address the shortcomings of the police and the increasing income gap is not addressed.

            Do you agree that scribbling ACAB everywhere and screaming defund the pigs will just discourage good people from joining the police making the problem worse?

            My accusation that people who support BLM blindly do not actually care about black people is that they give no consideration to victims of crime in black neighborhoods and propose woke slogans as solutions.
            I saw an interview with a black police chief who spoke about black women begging him to increase police presence.

            Anyway, lets hope the US will not go up in flames.

  6. I won’t capitalize either and I personally dislike being referred to as “white”. My recent DNA test revealed me, a pale-ish ginger to be primarily English/Welsh followed by Irish/Scottish and a small amount of eastern South American indigenous ancestry. Am I to deny the existence of 1/4 of my grandparents (with very dark skin and hair) to satisfy current limited racial ideas simply because I look more like the other 3/4 of my grandparents, if going by skin and hair alone? Is my skin (or hair) color all that matters? I know the answer for most people is that I am only allowed to be “white”, that I am Irish no matter what because of my hair, and likewise they assume I am catholic, for better or worse. And while I agree with Sam Harris’ recent podcast where he said to defeat racism we need to work towards a future where skin color matter no more than hair color, my hair has been my defining feature the whole of my miserable life, be it attention from “black” or “white” people who’ve told me more times than I care to count that “there are no red-headed Indians!” For that reason I used to carry a photo of my grandfather in my wallet to shut people up. And while I’m at it, I hate the term “cis”, unless I’m in a chemistry class. I guess what I’m saying is I’m just fed up with identity politics and CRT, white power and black power and all the related nonsense, left, right, and center. How about instead of being pigeon-
    holed into this race or that, one skin color or another, you just call me Chris, ok? Cheers.

    1. Is my skin (or hair) color all that matters?

      Certainly not. For the whole of its existence, the US has operated under a system of hypodescent — pursuant to which anyone of mixed racial background, regardless of skin tone or hair texture, was automatically assigned membership in the subordinate or “inferior” group.

      The was de jure law under the old “one-drop” rule, and it’s de facto the case to this day.

      1. Seems like the left is today also guilty of the “one drop” rule, describing anyone with some black ancestry as “black”?

        Obama’s equal white ancestry is for example often ignored and seems like a “positive” “one drop” claim, because being blacks now affords advantages in many areas.

        1. Being able to claim minority status can be of slight advantage to some people in a very narrow range of circumstances — gaining admission to some universities, for example.

          But, far and away, people of mixed race backgrounds have no choice as to which race they will be classified in the public consciousness. And being non-white in the United States still by-and-large puts one at a distinct disadvantage in the everyday world.

          A look around United States at predominantly white and predominantly black neighborhoods should be all that is needed to demonstrate this to be so. But, as George Orwell said, “[t]o see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

          1. “A look around United States at predominantly white and predominantly black neighborhoods should be all that is needed to demonstrate this to be so.”

            It is not that simple. You are ignoring cultural factors.
            Let me ask you this question:
            May Jews arrived from Europe dirt poor, often living alongside african americans. Within a generations Jews managed to be very successful.
            As I mentioned before, black immigrants do very well.

            Do you agree that culture plays a role? African Americans are indoctrinated that the system is rigged against them, that they can only spire to be rappers or gangsters.
            Many other groups succeeded in spite of various levels of racism
            Think how condescending reparations are for example.

            (Do you think Indians in Africa, or Chinese in Malaysia do not face racism)

            1. I agree that “cultural factors” are at play, but those cultural factors are no more a blank slate than is human genetic endowment.

              Much as the human genome has evolved adaptively to its environment since humans split from our last common ancestor with other great apes, so to has Black culture been evolving and adapting to its environment, much of it in the form of limits placed upon it by the dominant white culture, in the four centuries since the first Africans were brought across the Middle Passage in chains aboard slave ships.

        2. ‘Obama’s equal white ancestry is for example often ignored and seems like a “positive” “one drop” claim, because being blacks now affords advantages in many areas.’

          In the aftermath of Obama’s election in 2008, I distinctly remember hearing via the media certain folks asking, “Is Obama ‘black enough'”? Has a decisive verdict been rendered?

          1. Nobody ever calls him our first mixed-race president, at least I rarely if ever hear it and I know from experience that to do so is to be accused of racism, so, I guess you could say yes, a consensus has been reached. Racists always focus on him being black, and black people claim him as one of their own, but I’d say it is his choice, as it’s his identity…well, it ought to be.

  7. My 2 cents (pence?):

    As a Brit, I always found the term ‘African-American’ weird – many may have had families who were in Africa for 200 years

    Many may claim to have ‘West Indian heritage’ as opposed to African

    Besides, Africa is a continent, so Jerry, to properly replicate the term, you’d be either “European-American’ or ‘Asian American’ depending on the part of Russia…

    In the UK, we tend to refer to ‘Black’ and ‘White’ , although where Indians come in, I’m not really sure

    Ideally in a post-racist world we could use a term – without the prejudice associated – though it seems that’s a long way off…

  8. The capitalizaion of the “Black” but not “white” in terms of race goes back to the notion that white people have no culture and that Europe is basically something of a indeterminate inkwell.

    I have read this thought in several places.
    I think that’s what is largely behind the capitalization issue….a way of creating a new hierarchies of who matters.

    And then there is this…


    1. Then there is the little problem that genetic diversity is bigger in Africa than outside.

  9. All these terms, as used here, are just a way of separating us into opposing groups, which is why I avoid them unless I’m required to give a physical description of someone. I don’t understand why it’s unacceptable to say “Talk to John in IT,” and preferred to say “Talk to John, the B/b)lack guy, in IT.” What does identifying his skin color add to the reference? It’s his competence/skill set that are important to my audience.

    Requiring identification of populations by skin color also leads to members of those populations being tagged as “too black” or “too light” or too something else that means they are therefore somehow not as valuable, not as real, as others.

    And, finally, I am uncomfortable with the concept that a common heritage is the most important thing about us – especially when that heritage is only superficially common. That’s perhaps a particular bias of mine. I don’t like grouping people by one specific characteristic as if it were their defining characteristic. In my experience, people are complicated and individual, and being able to tag them as a “___” doesn’t really help know them.

    1. “All these terms, as used here, are just a way of separating us into opposing groups”

      Yes, we are all tricked into being “race conscious” every day.

  10. the increasing use of “Blacks” versus “whites” is largely based on a supposed difference in social experience.

    Working with and for several government agencies, I continue to fight against the almost Victorian-era like overuse of capitalization. Folks, please, stop the madness. Don’t capitalize nuthin’ unless it’s a proper noun, start of a sentence, or there’s some other grammatical reason for it. I acknowledge the different and important social experiences people of color have had, but this is not a grammatical reason for capitalization. If it makes you feel any better, I also think it’s ‘victims of genocide,’ not ‘Victims of Genocide,’ and in terms of lived experience it doesn’t get much more impactful than that.

    1. Donald Trump’s tweets must drive you completely insane.

      The apparently random way in which he capitalises everything was baffling to me when I first read one of his idiotic brain purges…then I noticed online that his supporters started doing it in their comments.

      I don’t know if it’s a complete coincidence or they really are taking on his affectations, like the apocryphal story about the Spanish king whose closest subjects affected his lisp in tribute, but it’s weird.

  11. Critical race theorists must really hate all of the mixed race marriages and child bearing going on. It’s going to mess their whole thing up. I honestly would not be shocked if the critical race theorists eventually came out against race mixing marriages, especially with those lower case whites.

  12. The most oppressive feature of whiteness, which is transparent in the rhetoric of the campus Left, is one thing: whites are evil by definition through being the majority. Hence the calls for re-segregation into “affinity groups” and similar arrangements.

    But comes the revolution, everyone will be the majority: utopia will be 70% Black, 70% Latinx, 70% L, 70% G, 70% B, 70% T, etc., and so on. Any thought that this is not mathematically possible will be rejected
    as a colonialist example of “white fragility” and a violation of DEI guidelines.

    Finally, in utopia 100% will use the same approved language and think the same approved thoughts—a feature called “Diversity”.

    1. No, I think this is similar to the “all lives matter” response. Yes, in many important ways, we are all Americans. But not all Americans have been treated equally in the past or present, bigotry towards specific groups still goes on, and so it’s worth acknowledging those groups as groups, because African-Americans may need societal support to redress past and present biases in a way Americans writ large do not. To reference a popular meme, if a bunch of us sit down at a restaurant and everyone gets served except Bob the African-American, Bob’s complaint “African Americans deserve food” is not well answered by “Bob, you’re American, and all Americans deserve food.”

      1. Sorry. ALL LIVES DO MATTER. To single ANY group out, and to give preferential treatment to one group over any other group is RACISM. We are all treated EQUALLY, not better, not worse, no special treatment or privileges for any one specific group over any other group. And Bob should be served, just like everyone else at the table should be. There are a lot of blacks that say the same thing. To single them out is very racist, because the message that is being sent is that are not able to do things or achieve things on their own, and they need to be singled out for help. Morgan Freeman himself said “the best way to end racism is to stop calling me a black man and I will stop calling you a white man. We are just men. We are just American men”.

        1. That’s not what ‘Black Lives Matter’ means though. To take it as a jab at other races is to ignore the entire history of its foundation.

          You need to understand that those three words originated as a plea not some kind of statement of superiority.

          1. Maybe that is how they were ORIGINALLY meant, but the BLM founder herself, said “they are trained Marxists and they want to destroy our way of life”. So those 3 words originally may have meant something different, but THAT IS NOT what they mean today.

            1. Do you have a source for that quote? It seems to be a first person quote written in the third person, which immediately strikes me as odd.

              1. Yes, it is the BLM founder herself.

                BLM in its Own Words

                “We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia [Garza] in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories.” — BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, July 22, 2015.

      1. “We are fifty shades of beige.”

        Which is a color, right?

        But, I gather Whites (whites?) are people of non-color, or not people of color?

    1. White? Beige? Ecru? Ivory? Crayola Flesh (renamed Peach)? La coleur du Naked Mole Rat? How can one decide? Beige segues into Café au lait then into tan and into the deeper browns and blacks (or Browns and Blacks), and so we go. Trying to think about such conundrums of color and race was so confusing and confounding that my brain began throbbing, which is undoubtedly why I’ve capitalized certain “Colored” words here that I shouldn’t have or even the word “Colored”.

      Then I discovered this deeply superficial but deeply serious blog post reviewing Estée Lauder Double Wear Foundation http://eatshopfly.blogspot.com/2014/11/behind-times-review-estee-lauder-double.html – and I went down that rabbit hole, thinking about beauty being only skin deep but how obsessed we are with the color of our skin. Then I began to wonder wonder what’s the hue of Trump’s facial make up? A large smudge of it can be seen on the inside of his unbuttoned shirt collar on video as he walks dejectedly off the plane, back from his Tulsa rally. Perhaps this woman could write a blog post reviewing his choice in make up.

      At the time of Trump’s return someone noted on twitter that it was Father’s Day eve and none of his children or his wife were there to greet him.

  13. The capitalization of Black but not white makes sense to me: in the US of A, Black folk tend to see themselves as a distinct ethnic group, in the same sense as do Asian-Americans and Hispanics; “white,” OTOH, is merely the pigmentation color shared (more or less) by people who tend to see themselves as members of other distinct ethnic identities (Irish-American, Italian-American, Jewish-America. etc.)

    Despite its recent rise in public consciousness, this isn’t an entirely new issue. As far back as the 1920s, no less a figure than W.E.B. Du Bois began a letter-writing campaign, demanding that book publishers, newspaper editors and magazines capitalize the “N” in “Negro.” And primarily Black magazines like Essence and Ebony have been capitalizing “Black” since the early 1970s.

    And, hell, as of a couple days ago, I see that even those socialists over at that bastion of “woke” leftism, The Wall Street Journal, have begun capitalizing the “B” in Black:


    1. When called by the name ‘Satan’ is – you are using a descriptor, not the name

      If I were to talk of ‘which god came first?’, there would be no capitalization…

  14. I think the important thing in the posting is to recognize the white privilege that is covered here. Some white folks seem to think they have no white privilege and the black folks are wrong to thing so. This is nonsense and it is important that we know this fact. The evidence is all around us so why ignore it. I was listening to one of these examples just the other day. They were talking about black bankers and that most of the loans to purchase houses by black people came from black bankers. Just a quick look at ownership stats shows black home ownership is about 42% give or take a few. White ownership is in the 70s. This is what it means when the privilege is baked in.

    1. My impression is that thinking white folks have recognized their privilege. The only ones left that do not are lying or not thinking. The bigger issue now is what to do about it. Some seem to want to punish white folks rather than actually fix the problem. I suppose it is only fair as our criminal justice system focuses on punishment over fixing the causes. Punishment is always easier.

      1. I’m not so sure about the easier. Who do we punish for the home mortgage problem? The white banker or those who make the laws? I don’t even see how punishment fixes the problem.

      2. I can understand that in general whites have an easier time of it because of racism, and that is “white privilege,” but seriously, ALL whites have it? Don’t be ridiculous. Plenty of desperately poor white people, or white homeless people exist. Could you please tell me how they enjoy white privilege? Are they not “thinking white folks”?

        This is a serious question to Paul and Randy, who seem to think that all white people have benefited from being white

        1. No one has said that all white people have greater privilege than all black people. That would be ridiculous. When we talk about white privilege, we are talking about an advantage white people has with all other things being equal — an average advantage. There’s nothing to be proven by comparing a poor underprivileged white person to a rich, privileged black person.

          1. That is what I was meaning as well. Certainly there are many poor whites with very little to nothing. We could talk about inequality as well as white privilege.

            1. Absolutely. My earlier point was that while we can recognize that white privilege exists, making white people guilty for it does nothing to help anyone. IMHO, the Woke got tired of the slow, arduous process of removing racial biases from our systems. Instead, they want to throw out the old system and start over. It’s like with CHOP in Seattle. Throwing out the old system is relatively easy but replacing it with something that works is really, really hard. Better to go back to the slow, arduous process if fixing what we have. Of course the Woke will say that I feel that way because, deep down, I want to maintain the old way with its white privilege as long as possible. It’s not a completely unreasonable argument but I don’t see much progress at all coming from their way of doing things.

            2. “We could talk about inequality as well as white privilege.”

              Except that you don’t. Everything is framed as race instead of class.

    2. This privilege is when there’s an argument started by a white guy and the black guy gets arrested

      Or a white guy gets a lighter prison sentence

      Or the presumption that only white guys could be QB….

      1. “Or a white guy gets a lighter prison sentence”
        What is the actual incidence of this?

        An what about “black privilege”, how widespread is affirmative action?

    3. The evidence is all around us so why ignore it.

      For the same reason fish ignore water until they’re removed from it.

    4. “Some white folks seem to think they have no white privilege and the black folks are wrong to thing so”

      I hate “sjw racism” which although well meaning is still a form of racism.
      Recent black immigrants from the Caribbean and West Africa are performing better in metrics such as education and income than the US average.
      Any debate on “racism” in the US that does not consider this interesting fact is not serious and thus not a real attempt to improve the lives of African Americans.

      There is a form of low expectation racism from the left, where African American cultural and societal failures are ignored.

      Have you read any books by Thomas Sowell?
      I think his books on the importance of culture within groups like immigrants is very relevant.

  15. I think African-American is most useful as a cultural description, for the culture of black Americans descended from slavery is truly unique. I don’t find it at all useful as a description of ethnicity. If I see a black person on the street where I live in Canada, they are as likely to be an immigrant from Ghana as a descendant of slaves brought to the American continent.

    As for Black, it seems to me like an attempt to merge black as a descriptor of color with Black as a shared cultural experience. I’m not sure how shared the experience is for a Kenyan and a black American, but no doubt both populations have been influenced greatly by colonialism, much of it by whites.

    Still, if using Black is a way for me to signal respect for the rights of people that have long been disenfranchised, then it seems like the absolute least I can do.

  16. This issue, as with the statues, is one of comparatively little relevance in redressing U.S. black slavery and subsequent centuries of inequities. I think this is done in lieu of redressing underlying critical issues because America is so divided on virtually all issues as to find it hard (if not impossible) to come together for resolution. Whether or not the “B” in “Black” is capitalized and the “w” in “white” is not is so picky, it’s almost humorous. Who could have believed this would become an issue? b/Blacks and w/Whites, h/Hispanics, a/Asians, I/Islanders, a/All of us need to put our thinking caps on and figure out how we finally stop the inequities in our land where all were promised equality.

    What do separate groups call themselves and prefer to be called? Is it appropriate to lump all people of a certain range of colors into the same group designation? Why aren’t we past this after so long of counting how many drops of this blood vs. that blood we have inherited and what color it makes our skin? Didn’t work then, doesn’t work now.

    It seems so much easier to pick at the scabs on the wounds rather than healing the wounds themselves.

  17. As I see it, the Civil War has been over for 155 years. The North won, for goodness sake. A lot had to be done to stitch the country back together again after that bloody conflict. After all, the whole goal of the war was to preserve the Union.

    Part of that stitching was the phony “lost cause” fiction that allowed the South to feel better about its defeat. What should NOT have been allowed was the South terrorizing its Black citizens with a hundred years of Jim Crow segregation. Compared to that, a few statues of Confederate military leaders is pretty small change.

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