What’s in a capital letter? The unmaking of racial equality

What’s in a capital letter? The unmaking of racial equality. By Dan Hannan.

It seems trivial at first, a change so negligible as to be barely worth mentioning. But the more I think about it, the more it symbolizes where America is going wrong.

The New York Times has announced that, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, it will be capitalizing the word “black.” “We believe this style best conveys elements of shared history and identity,” said Dean Baquet, the paper’s executive editor. … Nor does he want the paper to capitalize “white,” …

It is tempting to see the capitalization of a single letter as the latest politically correct fad, another example of a change that is initially mocked but eventually normalized. That, though, misses the vastness of the implication.

Let me spell it out. The capitalization means that dark skin is being treated as an all-encompassing identity rather than as a physical characteristic. The notion that melanin levels should, like height or hair color, be just one more bodily attribute is being junked. Yet that notion was what the whole civil rights movement was meant to be about. It is the basis of a modern, pluralist society. It was the ideal on which the United States was founded — the ideal that eventually impelled Americans to make a reality of the promise in the founding documents and give every adult citizen equality before the law.

We, kemo sabe?

How quickly we have gone from wanting everyone to be treated the same to wanting everyone to be treated differently. Here is the paper of record, saying that all black people are defined by their pigmentation. They may be rich or poor, liberal or conservative, ordinary or outstanding. They may be from South Carolina or South Dakota or, come to that, South Sudan or South Africa. It doesn’t matter. They are all part of a single cultural continuum.

In the words of the paper’s national editor, Marc Lacey, “It seems like such a minor change, black versus Black, but for many people the capitalization of that one letter is the difference between a color and a culture.”

Isn’t that the very definition of racism, though — at least as we traditionally understood the word? Doesn’t it ascribe group characteristics, real or imagined, to every individual member of that group? …

The logic of the New York Times’s argument is that two American babies born on the same day might belong to different cultures. More than that, they might arrive with a set of preexisting grievances against each other based on quarrels between people who happened to look like them.

No country can succeed on such a basis.

They changed the definition on you Dan. Now “racist” means white. Simple and tribal. Dumbed down, even.