Don't Surrender on Language!

(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

My personal website, The First Street Journal, maintains its own Stylebook, the standards of language that we use there. The reason for this is simple: the site owner does not consent to use the types of terminology specified by the credentialed media, because the credentialed media have weaponized words, to not so subtly influence people’s subconscious thought processes. A prime example is the continual media references to Dr Richard L Levine, who has decided that he is a woman and goes by the name of Rachel. Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) appointed Dr Levine to be his Health Secretary, and amid the COVID-19 “emergency,” Dr Levine has been in the news a great deal, in which he is always portrayed as a woman, with the conscious use of the feminine pronouns to refer to him. Even some of the staff writers of a conservative site like RedState have used the feminine pronouns to refer to Dr Levine, with no mention made that he is actually ‘transgendered,’ a man claiming to be a woman. If your only source of information was that RedState article, you would think that Dr Levine is a woman, would have internalized it, would have normalized it. After all, that’s how ‘nice’ people do things, so as not to hurt the feelings of the ‘transgendered.’

Well, now the Associated Press is at it again!

AP says it will capitalize Black but not white

By David Bauder | July 20, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) — After changing its usage rules last month to capitalize the word “Black” when used in the context of race and culture, The Associated Press on Monday said it would not do the same for “white.”

The AP said white people in general have much less shared history and culture, and don’t have the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color.

Protests following the death of George Floyd, which led to discussions of policing and Confederate symbols, also prompted many news organizations to examine their own practices and staffing. The Associated Press, whose Stylebook is widely influential in the industry, announced June 19 it would make Black uppercase.

In some ways, the decision over “white” has been more ticklish. The National Association of Black Journalists and some Black scholars have said white should be capitalized, too.

“We agree that white people’s skin color plays into systemic inequalities and injustices, and we want our journalism to robustly explore these problems,” Daniszewski said. “But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”

And there you have it: the Associated Press is admitting that the choice of language used, and its choice of language, not only shapes the message but is intended to shape the message.

Columbia Journalism Review, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, NBC News and Chicago Tribune are among the organizations that have recently said they would capitalize Black but have not done so for white.

“White doesn’t represent a shared culture and history in the way Black does,” The New York Times said on July 5 in explaining its decision.

What? Do black people living in Kenya really have a shared culture with black Americans living in Chicago? Do black Americans living in Chicago really have that much of a shared culture with black Somali immigrants living in Minneapolis, or black Americans who grew up and still live in rural South Carolina? Africa has been racked with tribal clashes and violence, among people much more closely ethnically related than Africans and black Americans in general, at least in part because national borders in Africa mostly reflect the old European colonial borders than the ethnic ones.

I’d note here that even after forty years of enforced living together in the old Yugoslavia, after Josip Broz Tito died, it didn’t take that much effort by Slobodan Milošević to reignite ethnic strife between Serbs, Croats and other ethnic minorities. There has been far more similarity than difference in ethnic strife among whites in Europe and among blacks in Africa, something which stands in stark contrast to the Associated Press’ assertion that all black people have a shared cultural heritage.

CNN, Fox News and The San Diego Union-Tribune said they will give white the uppercase, noting it was consistent with Black, Asian, Latino and other ethnic groups. Fox cited NABJ’s advice.

Except that black, and white, are shorthand terms for races, Negro and Caucasian, where Asian, Latino — what? the AP didn’t use Latinx? — and “other ethnic groups” are more specific references to people from certain backgrounds and geography. White should not be capitalized, but Irish or French should be; black should not be capitalized, but Kenyan or Ethiopian or Hutu or Tutsi should be. But at least those organizations are attempting to be editorially consistent.

Let’s tell the truth here: capitalizing “black” but not “white” when making the same types of reference is the same thing as saying #BlackLivesMatter but waxing wroth over those who say #AllLivesMatter or something similar. This is the Associated Press taking sides in the current political disputes, but doing so in a manner which the management believe will change the outcome by changing the terms of debate.
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