Protests and rioting following the death of George Floyd have prompted many news organizations to examine their own staffing and practices. The Associated Press, for example, recently announced that it has changed its language usage rules and will now capitalize the word “Black” whenever it is used in the context of race and culture. The AP, whose stylebook is particularly influential in the news industry, has since announced that it will not do the same for “white.” As such, the Columbia Journalism Review, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and NBC News are among the news organizations that have lately pledged to capitalize “Black” in these instances but have not yet done so for “white.” And probably will not.
John Daniszewski, the AP’s vice president for standards, recently issued a memo to staff stating: “We agree that white people’s skin color plays into systemic inequalities and injustices, and we want our journalism to robustly explore these problems. But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.” (I’m going to have to call “bullshit” on that explanation.) The AP also claims that, in general, white people have much less shared history and culture, and lack the experience of being discriminated against because of their skin color. That’s funny, I’m pretty sure white people have been around for many thousands of years. Was Socrates not white? And, I seem to recall that white Christians were thrown to the lions in ancient Rome. A practice that, if our own culture continues down the path it’s currently traveling, may be revived soon.
The New York Times explained its decision on July 5th, also averring “White doesn’t represent a shared culture and history in the way Black does.” Ironically, and to its credit, the National Association of Black Journalists says “white” should be capitalized, too. Several Black scholars have joined them in that assessment.
In openly discriminating against white people in this way, these news organizations have proven themselves wrong. Reverse discrimination is discrimination, too. And discrimination solely on the basis of skin color is always wrong.
If progressive news—and social media-- outlets really want to redress grievances and right wrongs, if they want to give succor to the marginalized, shunned and abused, they could start capitalizing “Conservative.”
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