In Response to: Capital Crimes

I read with interest Carolyn Rouse’s thoughtful essay, “Capital Crimes” (Decemer issue). I thought Professor Rouse is on target with her observations, and I am always glad to see Princeton address concerns involving racial fairness. However, it saddens me a bit that people are making this much effort to address language usages which for the most part have very little impact on racial justice itself.

I understand Rouse’s essay was partly in response to a Princeton alumnus who questioned the disparity in a PAW article which capitalized the “B” in “Black” but failed to capitalize the “w” in “white.” To that alumnus and to the community at large (including the staff and minions at PAW), I would ask, don’t we have more impactful things to worry about?

With regard to b/Black people and people of color in general, I think much more harm is done by the American legacy of racial redlining, differential access to education, and a host of other historical and current inequities than by the question of whose label gets capitalized when. I will happily capitalize Black (or not capitalize it), and I will do the same with the word “w/White” if by so doing I can minimize offense to someone, but I would much rather see us devote our time and attention to discussing how we can provide more opportunities to low-income people (regardless of race), prevent employment discrimination, and assure that everyone has adequate access to healthcare, fair policing and the right to vote. And I say that as a former English major who recognizes that words do have consequences.

Sheldon Rampton ’82
Portage, Wis.