MINOT, N.D. -- Recently, the Associated Press updated its style guide, an influential publication used by journalists across the industry, to state that the word "black," when used to describe a person, should be capitalized.
The change was intended to reflect "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," according to the AP's VP of standards John Daniszewski. "The lowercase black is a color, not a person."
Seems reasonable to me. We already capitalize Hispanic and Asian and Native American, so why not Black?
My company has adopted this style change as well, so when you're reading my columns, you'll see the change.
But what about white, when used to describe people? Shouldn't that be capitalized, too?
Not so fast, says Daniszewski.
"White people generally do not share the same history and culture, or the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color," he argues.
Thus, white people are not worthy of capitalization.
And needlessly divisive.
I have a deep and abiding dislike of our society's obsession with slotting people into groups. We are individuals. Your skin color, and the group it associates you with, does not and should not define your life.
White (calm down, it's the beginning of a sentence), like Black, is a term that encompasses many people with many different cultural backgrounds.
Albanians, for instance, were massacred as an ethnic group during the Balkan Wars of the early 20th century, and the Kosovo War of the late 1990's. Those abuses, among others, helped drive a diaspora, with hundreds of thousands of Albanians finding a new home in America where the Associated Press now tells them they haven't suffered enough to warrant an upper-case W.
The Ottoman Empire massacred perhaps as many as 1.5 million Armenians between 1914 and 1923, is that not enough to get a "W?"
This goes for Poles who survived Nazi war crimes, or any of the various Slavic peoples who suffered under the brutal Soviet Bloc regimes. They, too, apparently haven't been through enough.
The white immigrants from Italy and Ireland, Germany, and the Scandinavian states? They don't have enough of a "shared sense of history, identity and community" to enjoy capitalization.
I could go on, but I'm not sure why we should have to. If capitalizing Black is meant to convey respect to the groups of people that term is used to describe, do we need to measure injustices before we conclude that the multitudes described by the term "white" are deserving of the same respect?
It's not a competition.
Or, at least, it shouldn't be.
If you are a member of any demographic of humanity, you are deserving of dignity, whatever your skin color.
The Associated Press' decision is divisive in that way.
It's telling us that some are more worthy of dignity than others, and that's wrong. All the more so because it's a pronouncement comes from an industry that likes to posture itself as objective.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.