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Style Matters, blacks, Blacks and Journalism

By Chido Nwangwu

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.com, The Black Business Journal and NigeriaCentral.com

On July 10, 2002, in the National Association of Black Journalist listserv, nabjforum I wrote the following media commentary which has drawn a very high number of responses:

May I deal with a style issue of significant value on the usage of black(s) and Black(s) by the establishment, dominant media especially here in the U.S. Beyond the substance and analyses of the Bush-Civil Rights questions, my reference derives from the op-ed page of The New York Times, July 10, 2002: Slouching Toward Populism, written by Maureen Dowd ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/10/opinion/10DOWD.html )

Here, the main excerpt from Dowd's piece: "When a reporter asked why he did not attend the N.A.A.C.P meeting in Houston this week, Mr. Bush impatiently brushed off the question, noting that Colin Powell and Condi Rice work for him. So, once you give the estimable Colin Powell a job, you don't need to reach out to the rest of the black (Black*) community?..."

*I find it extremely insulting to use lower case 'b' when the reference is to Blacks/African-Americans. Style-wise, it is wrong for the dominant media to continue the imposition of such substantial error of form and content since, the basic color, black, should be in lower case.

Some dude will attempt, for the 1000th time to "explain" away why its correct to identify Blacks as "blacks" while the hold as accurate the capitalization of Hispanic, Jewish, or Irish. It does not make sense!

The profound James Baldwin once wrote "It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." The truth and fact, which must be told, are that some members of the dominant, establishment media mask their derogation and ignorance of other ethnic/racial groups and propel their minimization of the communal and collective worthiness of other cultures and peoples behind the protection, facility and privileges of the economic and socio-strategic power, set in these parts, largely, around their racial and ethnic origins. Of course, there are progressives across all ethnic and racial groups.

When will your newspaper and web site refer, accurately and morally, to African-American blacks as Blacks!? Until then, stay blessed, folks!


A few minutes afterwards, a number of responses and questions followed. One of those came from the Time magazine former columnist, Jack White (blackdogdc@hotmail.com. He asked: Chido, as a point of information, does your paper capitalize "white" when it refers to Caucasians?"

My response covered additional questions from other professionals. Here:

Sure, we do (capitalize "white" when it refers to Caucasians).

1) the USAfricaonline.com Style Standard requires our editors/contributors/reporters to capitalize the White and Black ethno-racial identities, and all other ethnic origins. It's been in effect since 1992 when I founded USAfrica in Houston as a multimedia company for Africans and Americans.

2) Same USAfricaonline.com Style Standard applies to our business newspaper, The Black Business Journal www.BBJonline.com

3) The AP, NY Times, Reuters, USNW Style "Books" are very wrong on their "style book" and preference for using a lowercase 'b' for Blacks.

Fundamentally, shred of all fine talk and embellishment, such "style book" minimization remains a pitiful reflection of the hangover of the sociology of journalism of the post-enslavement era, and the 1960s civil rights years when "they" set virtually all the "standard" to fit the raw sensibilities of the dominant White/Anglo-Caucasoid power structure and its newspapers buying public.

It was wrong then; it's still wrong into the 21st century. They're still so wrong that it's, excuse the usage, as clear as Black and White! Black is Black; that is, denoting a person, encapsulating ethno-racial origins while 'black' is a color for an inanimate being like paint.

I'll be glad to debate, in written or verbal forms, any establishment "style book" Moses and/or their associated "style book" apologists on this issue of accurate identification of ethno-racial beings.


Chido Nwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), is Founder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com (first African-owned U.S.-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet), USAfrica The Newspaper, NigeriaCentral.com and The Black Business Journal. He also serves as an adviser to the Mayor of Houston on international business (Africa) and appears as an analyst on CNN, VOA, NPR, CBS News, NBC and ABC news affiliates.

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Index of Founder's Notes (1)


Index of Founder's Notes (2)

Index of other Viewpoints
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