The Associated Press (AP) announced Monday that while it would capitalize the word “black” when referring to black people, it would not capitalize the word “white” when referring to white people, because of “systemic inequalities.”
The AP explained that there was more “support” for capitalizing the word “black” as opposed to “white.” It further argued that capitalizing the word “white” would reinforce the idea that “systemic inequalities and injustices” were legitimate:
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. That includes the shared experience of discrimination due solely to the color of one’s skin.
There is, at this time, less support for capitalizing white. White people generally do not share the same history and culture, or the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color. In addition, we are a global news organization and in much of the world there is considerable disagreement, ambiguity and confusion about whom the term includes.
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.
The AP acknowledged that there were other views on capitalizing “white.” On the one hand, leaving “white” in lower case would suggest that whiteness is the “default.” On the other, capitalizing “White” could encourage white people to join political discussions about race and equality.
The word “brown,” the AP said, would be avoided “in racial, ethnic or cultural references.”
In 2013, the AP stylebook banned the use of the word “illegal” in “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien.”
The AP style guide is one of the most authoritative sources for syntax, grammar, and punctuation in journalism.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.