In Response to: Capital Crimes

Thank you, Professor Rouse, for your encompassing and good-spirited discussion of the many considerations regarding the capitalization of black and white.

Have you ever asked why the AP Stylebook uses “Black” and “white”? Perhaps it is because of The New York Times: In the 1920s W.E.B. DuBois argued that not capitalizing the “N’’ in “Negro” was “a personal insult” to 12 million Americans. Eventually, the Times came around and adopted that style change. 

In 2020, the Times made another style change and black became “Black” while white remained “white.” The paper’s rationale included the idea that “white doesn’t represent a shared culture and history in the way Black does, and also has long been capitalized by hate groups.” (See “Why We’re Capitalizing Black,” by Nancy Coleman, in The New York Times, July 5, 2020.) 

I have lived through many name changes: colored people, Negro, Afro-American, and now Black, each change implying that I was slightly racist if I didn’t hop to it and adapt. All that happened was that my skin ... got thicker. I don’t care what people call me or themselves. If they are fair with me, I am fair with them. So, if you capitalize one name, you should capitalize them all. 

Accordingly, may I please suggest that if black is “Black,” white should be “White.” It’s simply a show of mutual respect.

Thomas Howard Tarantino ’69
Philadelphia, Pa.