From an op-ed column in the NYT on the 19th, “The Case for Black With a Capital B” by Lori L. Tharps:
this is one of my greatest frustrations as a writer and a Black woman living in the United States. When speaking of a culture, ethnicity or group of people, the name should be capitalized. Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.
Linguists, academics and activists have been making this point for years, yet the publishing industry — our major newspapers, magazines and books — resist making this simple yet fundamental change. Both Oxford and Webster’s dictionaries state that when referring to African-Americans, Black can be and often is capitalized, but the New York Times and Associated Press stylebooks continue to insist on black with a lowercase b. Ironically, The Associated Press also decrees that the proper names of “nationalities, peoples, races, tribes” should be capitalized. What are Black people, then?
I’m not going to object to this orthographic proposal, but I am going to argue that (though it’s innocuous) it’s not especially useful and is seriously confused on the nature of the categories at issue.