I was recently attacked, at American Renaissance, for not capitalizing “white” in the context of the white race. Here is the thread in question:
Me: Here’s a bizarre twist: The “mainstream media” is reporting this! I saw it on Yahoo news. But don’t hold your breath and expect them to report black on white mayhem. After all, a profanity-laced comment by a celebrity is far more important than a few thousand white and Asian lives ruined due to black violence.
Anon: Capitalize White if you are going to capitalize “Asian”.
Me: “Asian” means a person from the continent of Asia. So, even though we often use the term in a more narrow sense, it has become convention to capitalize the word. “White”, “black” and “brown”, on the other hand, are colors. Colors are not capitalized, so the convention is to use lower-case even for ethnicities that derive their names from those colors. If I were to capitalize “white”, then I’d also have to capitalize “black”. Yet I don’t see you insisting that I capitalize “black”, nor is it considered correct to capitalize “brown” when referring to Mexicans, Indians etc.
Juggernaut: The term “brown” is not used by the media to refer to a people group because it is considered demeaning. It is either “Hispanic” or “Mexican-American.” Both capitalized. I doubt a single media outlet anywhere allows the term “brown” to be used in reference to Hispanics.
“African-American” is the preferred term for blacks in the media. I have seen nothing else used in higher education. Note the capitalization.
The term “Indian” is rarely used, the pc term is “Native-American,” which the media use solely. I doubt there’s a single style book left that suggests “Indian” be used instead of Native American . Ditto higher education. Always capitalized.
“white” (uncapitalized) is used by the media to demean Whites as a people group. Please start capitalizing it. The word “Jewish” used in reference to people is never left uncapitalized.
The style manuals of the American Psychological Association, the venerable Chicago Manual of Style, and the University of Pittsburgh all say to capitalize White.
Me: I see your point. But I also notice that you don’t capitalize “blacks”. I’m looking for consistency.
The general consensus, in the wider world of English language “authorities” seems to support what I wrote. For example, this is from the Helium guidelines:
Capitalize names of races (African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Native American), but do not capitalize “black” or “white” when referring to race. See also Sensitivities (page 12).
Obviously, “African-American” is the P.C. substitute for the more accurate “Negro”; we wouldn’t describe the president of Ghana as “African-American. “Negro”, according to this, should be capitalized. Helium’s guidelines are based upon those of the Associated Press, which state that capitalization is to be used for…
ethnic groups:-The preferred usage for African Americans is “black.” The term is not capitalized.-Preferred usage for Caucasians is “white,” also not capitalized.-Preferred usage for Asian people is “Asian,” capitalized. Please note that in British usage the term applies only to people of the Indian Subcontinent.-“American Indian,” capitalized with no hyphen, is preferred over “Native American.”
However, other sources are unclear about this. For example:
Capitalize the names of religions, races, and nationalities
So, if we’re using the word “white”, or “black” as the name of a race, then perhaps it should be capitalized. I would add that even if “white” is not being used to describe a race, but an ethnic group (such as American Whites), it would still be capitalized. After all, as Juggernaut points out, “Jewish” is always capitalized. Similarly, “Gypsy” and “Roma” are capitalized because it is an established ethnic group. “Jewish” is capitalized not only by virtue of being an established ethnic group, but also because Jews originally came from “Judea”, which was a (capitalized) nation. “Asians” come from “Asia”, which is a (capitalized) continent. Whites come, primarily, from Europe – and “European” is capitalized just like “Asian”. Blacks come, primarily, from Africa – and “African” is also capitalized.
We live in a transitional era where “white” does not exactly refer to race, nor does it exactly refer to an ethnic group. “White” can be either a description or the name of a race, depending on context and who is doing the writing. In our era, whites are a people in the making, as I have pointed out elsewhere. Since “white” and “black” can mean many things during this transition, there is much confusion.
I think consistency is important. So, if we are to capitalize “White”, we should also capitalize “Black”. By bringing them to the New World as slaves, early Americans began the formation of a new ethnicity: The American Black ethnicity. With the founding of America, two new nations were conceived. Some would say more.
As it stands, whether to capitalize “white” and “black” should be up to individual discretion. Thus far, I have chosen to use lower-case. If it makes my fellow pro-whites happy, I would gladly switch to upper-case. However, if I do so, I’ll be using upper-case for “black” as well. I don’t see the point in getting into a “capitalization war” where people capitalize only their own race; that would be silly.