THE Washington Post announced this week that its reporters would uppercase the B in Black to identify African Americans in news stories.
The use of “Black” rather than “black” was an acknowledgment of shared cultural and historical bonds, the paper said.
In other words, Black is to be a noun rather than an adjective.
Black will denote not merely the colour of a person’s skin, but importantly for journalists at the Washington Post it seems, the group to which that person belongs.
Of course, the Washington Post could just call everybody “American”, but then how would the media pit people against each other?
The paper went on to announce:
“This style change also prompts the question of how America’s largest racial community should be identified. Stories involving race show that White also represents a distinct cultural identity in the United States. As such white should be represented with a capital W.”
Which “stories” involving the White race, the Washington Post did not say. But we can take a Wild with a capital W guess.
Hmmm … I’m guessing stories involving the White race feature things like colonizing, mass murder and slavery. Stuff like that.
But I digress.
The Washington Post essentially admits that, having decided to lump everyone with black skin (now known as uppercase Blacks) into one bucket, they reckoned they might as well throw all the whites into their own special container.
The Post’s uber-consciousness about race is starting to sound like it will contributor to, yes, racism.
At a time when America needs to come together, the Washington Post manages to find new ways to emphasise difference.
Wait. Maybe that’s unfair. Perhaps citing skin colours is a great way to demonstrate a rich understanding of race and ethnicity.
Imagining that Kenyans and Somalis are basically the same because Black, or that Italians and Australians are identical because White is not enlightened, it’s backward.
The Washington Post did “recognise there are individuals who prefer not to confine themselves to identity based solely on the colour of their skin”.
You think? Who are these people who don’t want their humanity reduced by the media to melanin?
The Washington Post says that if any such people exist, they “will have the opportunity to identify as African American and biracial, or something more ethnically specific”.
The option of simply identifying as “human” was not mentioned.
If you’re wondering what the Washington Post will do if you are neither Black nor White, fear not; they haven’t forgotten you.
The Post informed readers: “We will limit the uppercase version of the racial categorization Brown to direct quotations and use it sparingly in other instances. Although the term has gained general acceptance, the designation is seen by many as a catchall to describe people of colour of vastly diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds who are not Black.”
Because we wouldn’t want to use colour as a catchall to describe people would we!
The Post goes on to say:
“Other colours as racial identifiers have not been commonly adopted by members of the ethnic groups they are often used to portray, as many consider the terms insults or slurs. Those identifiers will remain lowercase.”
So if your appearance is other than Black, White or Brown, you don’t get your skin colour capitalised and underlined and written in bold in large font in front of your name in order to tell us everything we need to know about you.
Oh to be blue!
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James Macpherson is a sought after international speaker with a background in journalism at the Courier Mail and Daily Telegraph. He previously pastored a significant church in Australia and South Africa. James' weekly Good Sauce podcast comes out every Tuesday. He also writes regularly for Caldron Pool & The Spectator.