Over the last few months, the word “Black” appeared more frequently in our news coverage than I can ever remember. In part, this is due to a concentrated effort by this year’s staff to better represent the full voice of our community. But it can also be attributed to a series of events in the last year that have had a direct impact on the Black community on campus.
As with many things we write about, the word has sparked a number of debates in the newsroom, primarily regarding its capitalization. Prior to November 2016, we had never capitalized the letter B in Black. This changed during our coverage of the Black Student Union rally immediately following the election of President Donald Trump.
It was at this time that our staff began to recognize the effect a shift key can have.
The Emerald has chosen to capitalize the word “Black” when referencing the race or culture of Black Americans in our writing. We feel the need to explain why this choice was made because it is contrary to the stylistic standards of other publications such as the New York Times and the Associated Press.
Capitalizing the letter B is an effort to support Black Americans by illustrating their significance when the adjective is written next to other capitalized descriptions of race, nationality or ethnicity such as Asian, Native American, Latino, etc.
Historically, Black Americans have been subordinated in the U.S. by way of the enslavement of African “immigrants” and the continual mistreatment and segregation of Black Americans after the ratification of the 13th amendment.
This history prevails in the form of ever-present discrepancies of equality among Black and white Americans, such as higher rates of incarceration and lower rates of college enrollment.
To continue the representation of Black people in news media as has always been done is to continue to consent to a lower standard. Although this may seem like a small change, we feel that it’s an important one. This amendment reflects the feelings of a changing culture at the University of Oregon and nationwide.
In this case, we aren’t choosing to make this change as a political statement so much as to realign our language with a shifting society. As young journalists, we are constantly learning how to reflect the community we represent. By capitalizing the B in Black, we hope to do a small part in better representing the underrepresented.
Cooper Green, Editor in Chief
Braedon Kwiecien, Print Managing Editor