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AP news service politicizes capitalization of ‘White’ and ‘Black’

In a move that may have even English teachers scratching their heads, the Associated Press said Monday it will not capitalize the word “white” in stories when referring to race and culture. The AP announced last month that it would capitalize “black” when used in the same context. Decades ago, the term “African-American” had replaced the term “black” but in recent years has lost favor.

John Daniszewski, AP’s editor at large for standards, said in a memo to the news outlet’s staff that white skin color plays into “systemic inequalities and injustices,” and opposed capitalizing “white” on the grounds that it could risk legitimizing “white supremacy.”

AP began capitalizing “black” last month in the wake of racial-justice protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. Though the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times began capitalizing “black” and not “white,” CNN, Fox News, and the San Diego Union-Tribune capitalize both identifiers when referring to race.

Daniszewski said in a blog post last month that the term “Black” is capitalized to reflect the shared culture and identity of those who identify as black. In Monday’s announcement, he said the same considerations do not apply when referring to “white” in a racial context.

“White people generally do not share the same history and culture, or the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color,” Daniszewski said.

The news outlet also decided to capitalize “indigenous” last month, and Daniszewski said the changes follow a longtime standard of capitalizing other racial identifiers.

–Washington Beacon wire service