Media gets 'A' for effort, 'P' for pandering, over push for 'Black'

Thursday, June 18, 2020
Billy Davis, Steve Jordahl (

Black Lives Matter protesterNumerous news outlets are pledging to capitalize the letter "B" when using the word "black," referring to African Americans, suggesting the media has found a way to acknowledge the current racial climate or to pander to it depending on your point of view.

It might pass unnoticed by some readers but if you're reading about racial issues involving the African-American community in news sources such as The Los Angeles Times, “black man” or “black lawmaker” is now published as “Black man”  and “Black lawmaker” at the direction of top editors.

The pressure is building for The Associated Press to change “black” to “Black,” too, since the AP’s highly-respected Stylebook is a key source in newsrooms. So changing “black” to “Black” would all but make it official.

Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center says the push for “Black” is the equivalent of a mob shakedown that he likens to a bribe.

“It does nothing,” he insists. “It's just designed to make the protesters feel good and to leave you alone.”

‘White’ just racist deflection

Journalists and activists are being honest about their reasoning. An AP story about the push quotes the Poynter Institute, a media thinktink, suggesting “now is the time” to add a capital B. The diversity committee at USA Today stated the change “reflects a rich range of shared cultures.”

Brookings column on black (screen shot)A column published this week at the Brookings Institute directly asks The Associated Press to “listen to the nation and capitalize Black.”

The column lists numerous news outlets that have done just that and goes on to state:

This collective momentum toward capitalizing Black also demonstrates growing reader comprehension of the need for the revision. In recent weeks, people across the United States—and indeed the world—have lifted their collective voice to make clear that Black (not black) lives matter to them.

Farther down in the column, Brookings communications director David Lanham deals with the inevitable question: Why not capitalize “White” for white people, too?


The answer, he writes, is white people who bring up that issue are attempting to ignore “racial injustice” if they bring up what he calls a “false equivalence” at the same time blacks --- or Blacks --- are witnessing “systemic racism.”

Lanham further writes:

To argue “but what about capitalizing white”—particularly without presenting rationale and reasonable articulation on the topic—contributes to the harmful framework and power imbalance that says Black Americans’ progress can only be assessed or measured against white Americans.

New York Times buildingAnd hence Gainor’s claim that journalism has been besieged by a mob rule.  

“What it really shows,” he says, “is just how much major media are pandering to the protests these days. You can't expect journalists to do a proper job analyzing a protest when they're celebrating the protest.”

According to the AP story about using “Black," the editor of the AP Stylebook editor says using “White” could be perceived “in some minds with white nationalist or supremacist movements.”

Still unresolved, the AP story further states, is what to do about "b" for "brown people." The story calls that issue a "complicating factor" for newsrooms. 


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