AP Orders Writers To Not Capitalize 'White' Because History Has Been Harder on Some People Than Others


The Associated Press, a U.S. wire service and news outlet, announced Monday that while it will capitalize “black” when referring to the racial group in its stories, it will not capitalize “white.”

The AP said in a statement about the change that white people have a less distinct culture than do black people and that whites don’t have the experience of discrimination based on skin color.

It also said capitalizing “white” could be harmful because white supremacists often capitalize “white,” according to a report about the change posted by AP.

“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, AP’s vice president for standards, told staff, according to the report. “But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”

Several black organizations, including the National Association of Black Journalists, released guidance that “white” should be capitalized in addition to “black,” the AP reported.

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The AP made the decision to capitalize “black” about a month ago.

On Monday, it announced that it won’t be giving “white” the same treatment.

The AP’s guidelines are widely influential in how journalists format their writing. Numerous news organizations adhere, at least in part, to the AP Stylebook, which is released each year and updated regularly.

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The Western Journal uses its own house style, which is based largely on AP guidelines. However, we vary from those guidelines when we feel it is appropriate, as we do in this case.

The AP said capitalizing “white” could cause Caucasians to abdicate conversations about racial inequality in the country, according to the announcement.

The New York Times announced a similar decision on July 5, choosing to capitalize only “black.”

“It seems like such a minor change, black versus Black,” The Times’ national editor, Marc Lacey, said in the publication’s statement to the public. “But for many people the capitalization of that one letter is the difference between a color and a culture.”

The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, NBC News and others have also followed the trend, according to the AP.

Calls to capitalize the word “black” in writing follow nationwide demonstrations against racial inequality and police brutality after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

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