Editorial: This is why we are capitalizing the B in Black
This is a historic time in our country. It is critical, now more than ever, that we are listening to our readers and our employees and responding with thoughtful urgency.
Many readers and employees have questioned why the USA TODAY Network doesn’t use an uppercase B when describing Black people, culture and communities.
Through a series of internal conversations that began with the USA TODAY diversity committee and ultimately cascaded across our network of local news organizations, we have reviewed our current stylebook and are making the following change:
Effective immediately, the USA TODAY Network — one of the nation’s largest print and digital media companies — will capitalize B when describing Black culture, ethnicity and communities of people.
The USA TODAY Network of more than 260 local news organizations and the flagship USA TODAY will join other media outlets, such as the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times and BuzzFeed, who are listening to Black readers, employees and following the recommendation of the National Association of Black Journalists in making this important change.
More than a dozen newspapers across Kansas, including The Topeka Capital-Journal, Hutchinson News and Salina Journal, are part of the USA TODAY network.
In proposing this change, the USA TODAY diversity committee explained, "Black is an ethnoracial identifier that is inclusive of the collective experiences of the Black U.S. population, including recent immigrants. Capitalizing Black reflects an understanding and respect that is consistent with how many Black people and Black publications describe the people and descendants of the African diaspora and reflects a rich range of shared cultures.
"It also puts Black on equal footing with other ethnoracial identifiers, such as Native Americans and African Americans."
“When people are offended by how we describe their community, we have to listen,” USA TODAY diversity committee co-chair Cristina Silva said.
Stylebooks in journalism must be revisited and updated more frequently. They cannot be used as a crutch or an excuse to not do the right thing for the communities we serve.
USA TODAY diversity committee co-chair Mabinty Quarshie summed it up when she said, “We can be better, and we will be better.”
Michael McCarter is USA TODAY's managing editor of standards, ethics and inclusion. Follow him on Twitter @therealmccarter.