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June 22, 2020, 1:03 p.m.
LINK: blog.ap.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   June 22, 2020

It’s now AP Style to capitalize Black and Indigenous when referring to a racial, ethnic, or cultural identity.

Hundreds of newsrooms had already announced they would capitalize Black in their coverage and the updated guidance from the Associated Press is expected to convert hundreds more.

A handful of publications made the stylistic change months or years before the mass protests against police brutality sparked by George Floyd’s murder began at the end of May. (Outlets like Essence and the Chicago Defender have capitalized Black for years; The Seattle Times and The Boston Globe started in 2019.) Most newsrooms that adopted the change, however, only updated their style guides in the past week, as demonstrations spilled into their fifth week and a number have been forced to confront tensions over hiring practices and coverage decisions.

The updates were added to the AP Stylebook’s entry on race-related coverage. In a blog post, John Daniszewski, AP’s vice president of standards, explained:

AP’s style is now to capitalize Black in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. The lowercase black is a color, not a person.

We also now capitalize Indigenous in reference to original inhabitants of a place.

These changes align with long-standing capitalization of other racial and ethnic identifiers such as Latino, Asian American and Native American. Our discussions on style and language consider many points, including the need to be inclusive and respectful in our storytelling and the evolution of language. We believe this change serves those ends.

Daniszewski added that the AP spent more two years researching and discussing the possible change. Some in the Black community have been calling for the capitalization for even longer. An op-ed in The New York Times called for publications — including the Times — to capitalize Black back in 2014.

The term white remains lowercase for now but the AP said it was still reviewing that guidance and that it would make a decision within a month. “Considerations are many and include any implications that doing so [capitalizing the term white] might have outside the United States,” Daniszewski wrote.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, for one, argued in The Atlantic that both racial identities are historically created “and whatever rule applies to one should apply to the other.” The National Association of Black Journalists agreed and said, on Thursday, that all racial identifiers should be capitalized. CJR took another tack, with copy editor Mike Laws writing that “Black is an ethnic designation; white merely describes the skin color of people who can, usually without much difficulty, trace their ethnic origins back to a handful of European countries.”

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