It’s Black with a capital B

| Staff Writer

Grammar is important. Especially capitalization. Capitalizing a word signifies that it is significant enough to change our language. It gives power to the people, place or thing it represents. When writing about different racial groups, it is common to capitalize the “L” in Latinx, the “A” in Asian, and the both the “N” and “A” in Native American. But when speaking about Black people, the “B” is usually lowercase. Why is that? I don’t believe it is malicious, but if you capitalize other groups, you must do the same for Black people. It signifies more than a color, but the entire culture around being Black in today’s world.

I realize that in some cases the word “black” should be in lowercase, specifically when talking about the color. It’s usually the first thing that comes to mind, but context matters. When speaking about the people, it must be capitalized. It isn’t my fault that my community has been branded as a color, but I’m going with it.

We have all heard of cultural appropriation, or the theft of a culture by another. In America, it is most relevant in speaking about the appropriation of Black culture. If the culture is important enough to steal from, it is important enough to properly capitalize. The overwhelming majority of music the Western world has enjoyed over the last 60 years has had Black founders and/or Black major foundational performers. Fashion, slang, food and even elections are constantly being shaped by Black Americans, despite only making up about 13 percent of the United States population. Continually stealing from a culture while failing to give it proper recognition is a serious problem that has plagued America throughout its history. Just capitalizing one word can help put us on the path to equality.

There is also a history of using lowercase letters as a form of protest. Look at Israel or, as its detractors would write, “israel”. One is a name, signifying a place that exists and is officially recognized and agreed upon as a place that belongs. The other says that this thing is not a place and doesn’t deserve to be recognized on the same level as other countries. Whichever version you use isn’t important to this article, but the distinction serves to show that capitalization is a way to show that you are in agreement or disagreement, and it is effective. Not capitalizing Black when speaking about people of African descent is a slap in the face to everything we have built in the world. There would be no United States without Black people. There would be no modern world without Black people.

Capitalizing the word “Black” is in many ways the lowest of low-hanging fruit for justice for oppressed people. It doesn’t require any new thinking; just add another little loop on top. Black is not a color, it is a people. It is a culture that has and will lead the path of history for the better. Do the right thing, and frankly the easy thing, and from now on: write Black with a capital “B.”

  • disqus_N7Pj4niSWp

    While this is definitely an interesting point, the fact that you didn’t address your lack of capitalization of the word black in your past op-eds makes it difficult to justify the tone you use here and ends up making your argument a bit less convincing…

  • amruhl

    This was a very thought-provoking op-ed. I agree with you and will start using the capital “B”.