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21 September 2011 @ 02:50 am
Blackness vs. blackness  
First post here— I've wanted to join for months but thought it might be best to read from the sidelines and only ask for membership when I had an actual question to ask. And now I do have a question, which also has been around for a bit but I didn't see anyone address it here yet. (Apologies if I missed it.)

I'm sure different people have different preferences on this, but as I gradually feel more comfortable writing about race problems and racism, I'm not sure when to speak of the Black community vs. the black community. I understand, albeit vaguely, that capital-b Black developed as a descriptor during the Civil Rights movement, but beyond the actual history of the term, I don't know when it's appropriate to use it now. I see some anti-racist activists and bloggers of various races using Black as a default (often using White as well instead of white), but for every one of them, I see someone who leaves everything lowercase. Is there a logic to this that I've missed?

In short, if Black still has connotations of Black Power and Black Pride, I want to make sure that I use Black in contexts that are respectful to those things, and I want whatever word I use to not sound well-intentioned but ultimately patronizing and presumptuous. On that same note, am I right to see a subtle difference when one uses Black and white instead of Black and White?

Thank you and I apologize if I've phrased any of this awkwardly/problematically.
the kind of beauty that moves: flesh tonespapertigers on September 21st, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
it's not really that subtle; unless you're talking about the colors black and white, the words should be capitalized, just like any other ethnic group.
the stag's daughter: Astronomydoe_witch on September 21st, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, I'm a little confused by one semantic aspect of your comment. When I hear "ethnic group" I think of different peoples/tribes/nationalities/heritages/genetic lines, like Jews or Berbers or Greeks. Obviously we capitalize that in English, but as far as I've ever understood it, we capitalize certain constructed racial categories because they refer to the general (capitalized) geographic area where members of that construct originate from, e.g. East Asians are from East Asia. So are you really saying that any racial category should be capitalized simply so that they're all capitalized? Or is there something I'm missing?
the kind of beauty that movespapertigers on September 22nd, 2011 01:24 am (UTC)
in the US, Black and White denote ethnic groups as well as racial groups, though not all racially Black/White people are ethnically Black/White. as an ethnic group, "Black" refers to slave- and freedmen-descended Black people in the US, who have largely had their ancestral ethnic identities erased by slavery and institutionalized racism. as legalliquid notes below, this group is also referred to as African-Americans (a label I personally find othering, but that's just me). as a racial classification, "Black" refers to all people of the African diaspora, regardless of ethnic group. whether you're making a racial or ethnic distinction, the habit of not capitalizing "Black" while simultaneously capitalizing every other ethnic/racial group is indefensible.
the stag's daughterdoe_witch on September 22nd, 2011 02:25 am (UTC)
All of this makes a lot of sense, but the point about freedmen descendants especially. Thank you for elaborating and I'm going to remember all of this.
Comrade Cat: general-keys hanging on ropescomrade_cat on September 22nd, 2011 03:09 am (UTC)
Thanks. Capitalizing Black as a stand-in for erased proper noun identities makes sense to me.

I started out writing 'black' like most non-minority US kids; switched to 'Black' for a while b/c it sounded more, I don't know, Black-positive, so I figured it was polite; then I thought I don't capitalize 'white,' so maybe I shouldn't capitalize 'black' so I went back to 'black'; I guess I should go back to 'Black' again.

Writing 'White' with a capital feels kind of icky though. I'm going to use it in this paragraph b/c I figure it's paired with capitalizing 'Black'. I'm fine with my racial identity because nobody hurts me with it - I mean people don't usually abuse peach-coloured people for their skin colour. I see people celebrating Irish and Czech culture, two of the identities I have a claim to, and I see people celebrating Black culture, and I'm sure if more Black people knew their ancestry there'd be more people celebrating Yoruba or Igbo or other African cultures in the US, but the only people I've seen celebrating White culture as White culture are White supremacists. Is capitalizing celebrating? I'm confused. Can I hear your perspective on this?
Comrade Catcomrade_cat on September 22nd, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
When I say 'more Black people knew their ancestry there'd be more people celebrating Yoruba or Igbo or other African cultures in the US' I think I mean 'African-American people' or maybe 'people of the African diaspora'. Sorry.
M a r i a nma_ee_uh on September 21st, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
I am curious to read the comments -- in AP Style (and many if not most other style guides) black and white are not capitalized.
Marileecrushdmb on September 21st, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
Hahaha the dome :) That was a good book, actually. I read it a few months ago.
Ellelegalliquid on September 21st, 2011 09:59 pm (UTC)
In my opinion, Black is often used either instead of African American, or to generalize a group of people who have some African roots. I could say that I’m Black and be from Haiti. If someone is talking about minorities, and all of the other racial identifiers/cultures/etc are capitalized, then it seems appropriate to capitalize the word used to describe Black minorities also.

Personally, I feel that African American is currently more pc when writing about Black people who live in America for this exact reason.

On a more personal note, as a teenager, I would often have teachers who would write things such as, -White, Asian, Mexican, and black students attended the assembly last week- and I would feel as though my culture was being invalidated.