The ongoing debate over racial references

From Herald Tribune, June 30, 2020

As the country debates issues of race, power and identity, many publications have changed their style to capitalize Black when referring to race.

After writing recently about the death of George Floyd and student charges of racism at the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, I received some mail objecting to my use of a capital “B” for Black when referring to racial identity, but a small “w” when referring to whites.

“If you want to capitalize race it should be equal,” wrote a reader, suggesting I use “Caucasian” and “Negro” instead. “I find [your usage] prejudicial and inconsistent and expect more from a newspaper columnist.”

Well, I’ve got news for you; it’s not up to this columnist — or any other journalist who isn’t self-employed — to choose what punctuation (or word) to use in reference to race; we follow the directives of the news organizations for which we work. In the case of the Herald-Tribune, that’s the USA Today network owned by Gannett, which follows the the venerable arbiter of journalism style policy, the Associated Press. (Even if, as one reader testily replied, “I don’t really care what newspaper and journalists have decided.”)

Referred to as “the Bible” in copy editing circles, the AP Stylebook was revised this month to include the capital “B” for Black. Since then, dozens of mainstream news organizations have belatedly followed the suit of publications like Essence and Ebony, which have capitalized Black for years. (As of this writing, the New York Times and Washington Post have yet to join the bandwagon.)

Read more here, and see what Bill Woodson, NCF’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, had to say.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 700 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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