US Why did the "New York Times" decide to write "Black" in capital letters and not "white"?

18:55  02 july  2020
18:55  02 july  2020 Source:   liberation.fr

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Devant la rédaction du «New York Times» mardi. © JOHANNES EISELE In front of the editorial office of the "New York Times" on Tuesday. The "New York Times", like other American newspapers before it in recent weeks, has decided to put a capital letter to the word "Black" to describe people and cultures of African origin. The subject is debated in the United States, less in France.

Question asked by Mario on 07/01/2020


You are referring to a note from the New York Times which announced Tuesday that "Black" would now be written with a capital letter in the daily newspaper (as well as the articles where the same occurrence occurs).

The newspaper explains that it made this decision after speaking to "more than 100 members" of its editorial staff, and consulting colleagues from other press organizations. "Based on these discussions, we decided to embrace this change and start capitalizing on the word" Black "to describe people and cultures of African descent, in the United States and elsewhere. We believe that this style best conveys elements of common history and identity, and reflects our objective of being respectful of all the people and communities we cover, ”write Dean Baquet and Phil Corbett, respectively, editor. chief and deputy director of title writing.

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This decision was taken in a specific context after the death of George Floyd , killed by a white policeman, Derek Chauvin, at the end of May in the United States. It also responds to a fundamental movement in the American press in recent weeks. Before the New York Times, the Associated Press had made the same decision. "Black in lowercase is a color, not a person," said in a note John Daniszewski , vice president for standards at AP. Adding: "These changes align with the long-standing capitalization of other racial and ethnic identifiers such as Latin American, Asian-American and Native American. Our discussions on style and language take many points into account, including the need to be inclusive and respectful in our storytelling and the evolution of the language. ”

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The Los Angeles Times, USA Today (and its 260 newsrooms across the country) and NBC News also made the same choice, while the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) asked other newsrooms to adopt the same standards.

As the Associated Press recalls, almost a century ago, the American sociologist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, in a letter sent to the media, asked them to capitalize on the term "Negro", then used to commonly , saying that the lower case was "a sign of disrespect and racism". In 1930, the New York Times adopted this form, saying it was an "act of recognition and respect for those who have spent generations in lower case."

"White" remains in lower case

Regarding a possible capitalization of the word "white", the press agency AP is still asking the question. The New York Times, for its part, ruled: "We will keep the treatment in lower case for the word" white ". Although there is an obvious question of parallelism, there has been no comparable movement towards the widespread adoption of a new style of "white", and there is less the feeling that "white" describes a shared culture and history. In addition, hate groups and white supremacists have long favored the uppercase style, which in itself is reason to avoid it. ”

In France, the vast majority of the media capitalizes “White” and “Black”, mainly for grammatical reasons. It is the rule of the noun that applies indeed. "By analogy with ethnic groups derived from proper names, we capitalize names which designate human groups, for example by the color of their skin or by the place where they reside (which is not designated by a real proper name) ", details the Grevisse of the French language.

It is this same rule that has been followed for several years in Libé. "From the moment we use it as an ethnic group, the rule of nationalities applies," explains Michel Becquembois, head of the publishing department.

Best regards

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