B as in Black

Over the last few years, I’ve been reading and considering the discussions for and against capitalizing Black, when referencing a specific group of people with a shared cultural and historical context. While I adopted it quite readily based on both changing convention and from a philosophical standpoint, it remains a really interesting topic for me. In part, this is because of how it challenges my own ideas of what feels right, what is right and why it is right, and highlights my own blindspots and ignorances of how language choices impact us all.

If you are interested in a really good read on the topic, I recommend Kwame Anthony Appiah’s article in The Atlantic (“The Case for Capitalizing the B in Black”). Appiah is a professor of philosophy and law at New York University and an author. And he is a really good writer (see any and all of his New York Times pieces).

A favorite quote of his that I find useful to remember in many contexts:

“Reasoned arguments about linguistic usages must always reckon with the fact that language is a set of conventions, to be determined by the consensus of language users.”

The key words for me are conventions and consensus. They change and evolve over time. With some effort, so can we.