The Associated Press often sets the way people use language. For instance, the international wire service recently decided that the word “internet” would no longer be uppercase.
The news agency, which puts out an annual “style book” listing how words are to be used, also recently said that the word “black” should be written as “Black” when referring to African Americans. But on Monday, the AP said the word “white” should not be uppercased when referring to Caucasian people.
“The AP said white people in general have much less shared history and culture, and don’t have the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color,” the AP reported.
“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 on Monday. “But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”
The AP reported that publications like the Columbia Journalism Review, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune have recently said they would capitalize Black, but have not done so for white. “White doesn’t represent a shared culture and history in the way Black does,” The New York Times said on July 5.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) says “white” should be capitalized, too. “CNN, Fox News and The San Diego Union-Tribune said they will give white the uppercase, noting it was consistent with Black, Asian, Latino and other ethnic groups. Fox cited NABJ’s advice,” the AP wrote.
Some proponents believe that keeping white lowercase is actually anti-Black, saying it perpetuates the idea that whites are 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 who said she’s changed her mind on the issue over the past two years.
Language has been a battleground of late. For instance, while the Oxford Dictionary defines the phrase “low-hanging fruit” as “a thing or person that can be won, obtained, or persuaded with little effort,” a college professor says the term is racist.
“For African-Americans, if you say ‘low-hanging fruit,’ we think lynching,” said Mae Hicks-Jones, an adjunct faculty member of Elgin Community College in Illinois.
“Grandfathered” is also racist, she said, according to a report this week in The College Fix. To Hicks-Jones, the phrase “grandfathered in” is reminiscent of a grandfather clause, which privileged white people’s right to vote over that of black people during the Jim Crow South.
Then there’s the “Masters” golf tournament. Rob Parker last month wrote a Deadline piece headlined “We’ve Lived with ‘The Masters’ Name Long Enough.”
“Augusta National was built on grounds that were once a slave plantation and was the property of a slave owner. And according to a 2019 New Yorker piece about the course, it’s believed that enslaved Blacks were housed on the property,” he wrote.
You’ll be surprised to hear there’s more.
Even food brands are being targeted. Quaker Oats announced last month that it would remove Aunt Jemima from its 133-year-old brand of syrup and pancake mix, while the company that makes Cream of Wheat said that it’s reviewing its brand and packaging, which features a black chef holding up a piping hot bowl of cereal.
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