Why the capitalization of black, brown and white is so (P)roblematic

races
Black, Yellow, Brown and White

These days everything has become racially charged – including the capitalization of descriptors of color.

In the wake of the George Floyd riots, newspapers have begun capitalizing black.

The Washington Post made a point of doing so the other day and from now on it is Black people.

Other newspapers have already done so and I suspect the Associated Press which sets the standard for most newspapers will soon follow suit.

Advocates of the change in style argue that capitalization reflects a new sense of respect for the Black diaspora and the notion that lower-case black was a feeble descriptor that did not capture the essential nature of the protesters.

As one young journalist put it, “Black should always be written with a capital B. We are indeed a people, a race, a tribe. It’s only correct.”

Thus, we now have Black and Brown peoples appearing in newspapers across the United States and soon in Canada as well.

Few will see this as a problematic development, but the desire to capitalize is not without peril.

All of this focus on capitalization is going to increase racial divisions.

After all, if people who are black are now Black and now a people, a race, a tribe, what does that make people who are white.

After all, white nationalists have routinely referred to themselves as White. The capitalization signifying that they, too, see themselves as a people, a race and a tribe.

Most people who are white do not see themselves as White. Most see themselves as individuals, human beings, whose skin color is incidental.

What happens when 70 per cent of the population in America and Canada starts seeing itself as White?

White people in both countries would tend to answer when asked their ethnicity that they are French, English, Italian, German, etc. But that’s changing. More and more are answering white.

So we will soon have individuals who see themselves as Black, Brown and White, with latter comprising the absolute majority.

What happens when Whites start recognizing that their countries are becoming less White?

What happens when Whites, Blacks and Browns start thinking it is us against them?

Now, throw into this racial mix ideas about capitalism, White supremacy and colonialism.

Identity politics is a prescription for turmoil and violence.

What it does is prevent us from serious discussions about policies that have led to the destruction of the middle class, to the loss of economic mobility and erosion of tolerance in our societies as evidenced by the cancel culture.

In other words, it does nothing to advance the material well-being of ALL people.

And none of this ends well for anybody regardless of skin color.


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