Busboys and Poets


When to Capitalize ‘Black’ and ‘White’

Leo Reynolds / Flickr

Author Touré will be discussing his new book “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?” at Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets, NW tonight. The book is an interesting read delving into what it means to be black in America today, but even before you get to the meat of it, Touré includes this author’s note:

I have chosen to capitalize the word “Black” and lowercase “white” throughout this book. I believe “Black” constitutes a group, an ethnicity equivalent to African-American, Negro, or, in terms of a sense of ethnic cohesion, Irish, Polish, or Chinese. I don’t believe that whiteness merits the same treatment. Most American whites think of themselves as Italian-American or Jewish or otherwise relating to other past connections that Blacks cannot make because of the familial and national disruptions of slavery. So to me, because Black speaks to an unknown familial/national past it deserves capitalization.

Capitalizing “black” goes against the typical standard used by media outlets and outlined by the AP Stylebook (which DCentric abides by). But some believe both “black ” and “white” should be capitalized to defer respect and equity — Hispanic and Native American are capitalized, after all.

Such grammatical standards aren’t set in stone; it wasn’t that long ago that “Negro” was the preferred term. Sometimes popular word usage slowly evolves, and other times, specific movements seek to influence word usage. For instance, the “Drop the I-Word” campaign is pushing media outlets to stop using the term “illegal aliens.” (The Society of Professional Journalists recently joined their call).

What’s your take: do you believe “black” should be capitalized? What about “white?” Does it even matter?


DCentric Picks: Ethiopian Heritage Festival

Karen Bleier / Getty Images

The D.C.-area is home to the largest Ethiopian immigrant community in the U.S.

Looking for an event that relates to race or class in D.C.? DCentric will be regularly posting event listings we believe will be of interest to our readers.  If you have an event you think we should feature, email dcentric@wamu.org.

What: The First Annual Ethiopian Heritage Festival.

When: The weekend-long event starts at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and at noon on Sunday. Children under 13 are free on all days.

Where: Friday’s events will be held at Georgetown University’s art department building (1221 36th St. NW). Saturday and Sunday events will be at the university’s Multi-Sport Facility (3700 O St. NW).

Cost: Friday is free, Saturday admission is $10 and Sunday admission is $15.

Why you should go: The D.C.-area is home to the nation’s largest Ethiopian community, and this is the Ethiopian Heritage Society’s first festival, so why not be a part of history? Organizers want the event to be a place where “Ethiopians from all different background[s], ethnicity, religions, beliefs, values, and political opinion[s] gather and celebrate our common heritage and home – Ethiopiawent.” The weekend will feature food, music, poetry readings, coffee ceremonies, concerts, a soccer tournament and cultural shows.

Other events to consider: “A.C.T.O.R. (A Continuing Talk On Race)” takes place from 5 to 7 p.m., Sunday at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th St. NW). This installment of the monthly discussion, which seeks to provide a space for honest discussions about race, will focus on “what actions we can take to undo race-based oppression.”