Associated Press says it will capitalize "black" but not "white"

by Jordyn Pair · Jul 20th, 2020 4:01 pm

Last Updated Jul 22nd, 2020 at 4:16 am

The Associated Press said on Monday that it would not capitalize white when talking about race, roughly a month after it announced a change in its usage rules to capitalize the word "black" when used in context of race or culture.

"We agree that white people's skin color plays into systemic inequalities and injustices, and we want our journalism to robustly explore these problems," John Daniszewski, the AP's vice president for standards, said in a memo to staff. "But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs."

The AP also said that white people generally have less shared history.

Columbia Journalism Review, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, NBC News, and Chicago Tribune have all begun capitalizing black, but have kept white lowercase.

"White doesn't represent a shared culture and history in the way Black does," The New York Times said on July 5.

CNN, Fox News, and The San Diego Union-Tribune have said they will also capitalize white, making it in consistent with other ethnic groups such as Asian and Latino.

Some critics of the change said it perpetuates the idea that white is the default race.

"Whiteness remains invisible, and as is the case with all power structures, its invisibility does crucial work to maintain its power," wrote Eve Ewing, a sociologist of race and education at the University of Chicago, on the website Nora. "In maintaining the pretense of its invisibility, whiteness maintains the pretense of its inevitability, and its innocence."

AP said it would continue to review the change.

"We will closely watch how usage and thought evolves, and will periodically review our decision," Daniszewski said.


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