Flashback Friday: Black People Deserve a Capital “B”

Rebecca Walker book

This book has nothing to do with this post, but you see Black is capitalized.
This book has nothing to do with this post, but you see Black is capitalized.
Hello Meltingpot Readers,

I don’t know if I’m still feeling extra Black because we just celebrated Black Friday or because with all the media hoopla about how many Black themed movies are currently being shown at a theater near you, I’ve caught the bug. Or maybe I’m feeling revolutionary in honor of the great Nelson Mandela, may he truly rest in peace. Regardless, I felt it appropriate to revisit my post on capitalizing the letter “B” when referring to Black people. It really irks me to see Black written in lower case, as if it were only a color when referring to an entire culture of people. Here’s what I wrote and posted on the original My American Meltingpot in 2007. It is re-posted here in its entirety and I still feel the same way. Onward!

I am a writer, so words mean a lot to me. I use my words to tell stories, to make people think and to express my ideas. We all know, despite the childhood refrain, that words have the power to wound and likewise they can heal (think Hallmark). And for that very reason, I have a problem with the way a certain letter is treated.

It’s the letter B. Why is the letter B lower cased when describing Black people? I know black is a color but when I’m talking about my people, Black is not referring to the color of our skin (duh, Black people range in actual color from the lightest light to almost midnight black) it is the name of our culture. Black culture. A unique culture that is an amalgam of African, European, and Native American influences.

And whether you agree or not on what constitutes a Black American, the fact of the matter is that a lot of us colored folk identify as Black Americans, so that classification should be given all of the respect given other ethnic/cultural identifiers.

Let me make my point: If you see a sentence that says: “The school has an equal number of Asian, Hispanic and black students.” How can you not feel like black is less than when it doesn’t even merit a capital letter?

And I’m going to say further, how as a people, are we supposed to feel a pride in our culture when we can’t even get a capital letter recognized as grammatically correct? In all of my writing, I always capitalize the letter b in Black. Many times it is struck down by a racist copy chief (just kidding, they’re not intentionally racist, just probably afraid to buck the system)but I’ll go to the mat to fight the change. In my books, where I have a little bit more control I beg for the change. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. But as a writer, a woman who uses words as her weapons for change, I never give up the fight.

And neither should you.

In the words of Bill Cosby, “Come on people!” If we all start capitalizing the “b” in Black when referring to Black people, then eventually the change will come. I mean, if Bling can make it into Webster’s Dictionary, then we can capitalize the B.

Are you with me? Start with the man in the mirror and make that change (thank you Michael Jackson). You start the campaign, tell your friends. Tell your co-workers. Kids, tell your teachers. Black people deserve a capital B. We can start this revolution right now. And you don’t have to be Black to believe in the the capital B. This is an issue that effects everyone who will ever put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard and write. This means you.”

P.S. I also capitalize White people as well as Mixed people. I am an equal opportunity capital queen.

Related posts