Not “White” and “Black,” but “white” and “black”

Lately more and more commenters have been capitalizing the words white and black, e.g., “White people,” “Black people,” which I have changed to lower case prior to posting. It has never been standard usage to capitalize these adjectives when they are used to denote race, and it is not VFR’s usage. While race matters, to make it matter so much that we capitalize the mere names of colors is to take race consciousness too far. I ask commenters to conform their spelling to standard English usage. Thank you.

- end of initial entry -

Richard W. writes:

My Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary agrees with you. It says:

… like other terms referring to skin color (white, yellow) it is usually not capitalized, except in proper names or titles (Black Muslim, Black English).

I don’t get the “Black English” reference, oh well. But the rule seems clear enough.

Funny though I think I’ve noticed that black is often capitalized and white is not, sometimes in the same article. In proof reading my own writing I caught myself doing this sometimes.

This goes to demonstrate one of Auster’s Rules, that we are all liberals, whether we’re aware of it or not, and that it takes conscious “proofreading” of our thoughts, words and philosophy to have ideas that are coherent, and writing that is clear.

(This is exactly the process that Obama does not seem to have undertaken. Thought. Reflection. Trying to reduce contradictions in his life and philosophy. Making his words agree with his actions.)

Anyway, I thought I’d look on the Web to see if I could find published examples of this. I found this one. It occurs often enough to be sure that it is not a mistake. The person who wrote this consciously decided it was “Black” and “white” when used in the identical phrase:

Maybe the primary is giving me a sick sense of humor, but on one level I find all of this to be hilarious. For pretty well forever, Black people have had to listen to stories about typical Black people. The crazed or disreputable actions of one white person is never said to represent the entire group, until now. But it’s a longstanding rule that the actions of one Black person represent the entire Black community, at least whenever the behavior is bad. (This rule also applies to women, gays and other minorities.) When a Black person is late for a meeting, it means that all Black people are always late for every freaking meeting.

So, yeah, I think the outrage over the perceived stereotyping of white people by Obama is hilarious. And I don’t think Obama is a racist. I just think that he sometimes talks about white people the way white people sometimes talk about Black people. Obama may be half white, but the rule in America has always been that one drop of Black blood makes you totally Black.

Since white people don’t like to be stereotyped anymore than Black people do, and since white people are the vast majority of the population, this is going to really hurt Obama.

The original is here. The author is a self avowed leftist.

Here is another example, from the Black Muslims, where again it is a definite style choice.

LA replies:

All kinds of racists do this, to magnify their own group and dehumanize the group they hate. For example, many white nationalists capitalize “white,” a color which should not be capitalized, and put “Jew,” a proper name which should be capitalized, in lower case.

Gintas writes:

Re Richard W.’s comment: “This goes to demonstrate one of Auster’s Rules, that we are all liberals, whether we’re aware of it or not…”

Now there’s a reason for white self-loathing. ;-)

Patrick H. writes:

Ebony magazine and other black publications not only used “Black” for black, they would describe the black man as “Black Man”. This usage was incessant, and not just for big portentous moments or grand generalizations. Of course, “white” was not capitalized. Oddly, I seem to remember that black women were referred to as “Black women”, though I may be wrong about that.

The use of “Black Man” to describe black men strikes me as an instance of the “respect” that blacks (men particularly) seem to crave, and which they feel is wrongly denied them by whites. “Respect”, to whites, seems to mean something very close to courtesy, something equals grant to one another. “Respect” to blacks means, not courtesy, but deference, not a relationship of equals, but one of dominance and submission. The capitalization of “Black” is simply an example of what blacks feel is their due. It is the lack of deference from whites that so torments blacks, not a lack of courtesy.

Respectfully but not deferentially,
Patrick H.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 26, 2008 11:12 AM | Send

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