As of Dec. 18, 2019, The Seattle Times capitalizes the word “Black” when referring to a culture, ethnicity or group of people.
The Times regularly reviews its style guide and makes adjustments as language and society change. New guidance on usage of “Black” arose from discussions in the broader culture about what constitutes a people, and the historical use of various words to describe the people and descendants of the African diaspora.
“The time was overdue for this kind of reassessment,” said Ray Rivera, the Times’ managing editor, who oversees standards for the news organization. “We felt this was an important move. It is increasingly clear this is the preferred term among many Black publications and presses. It seems appropriate and respectful for us to follow suit.”
While many news outlets continue to use the word “black” with a lowercase “b,” increasingly grammarians argue that capitalizing it puts it on par with other identifiers of race, such as Native American and African American. Many style guides and dictionaries say both versions are equally accurate, depending on the preference of the author, publisher or subject of a story.
Here’s the updated passage in the style guide, crafted by members of the Times’ Diversity & Inclusion task force in partnership with the news copy desk:
Black (adj.): Belonging to people who are part of the African diaspora. Capitalize Black because it is a reflection of shared cultures and experiences (foods, languages, music, religious traditions, etc.). Do not use as a singular or plural noun. When ethnicity is relevant to the story, ask the source which ethnic identifier they use. Black is not necessarily synonymous with African American; some argue the term Black is more inclusive of the collective experiences of the U.S. population, which encompasses recent immigrants.
white (adj.): Belonging to people with light-colored skin, especially those of European descent. Unlike Black, it is lowercase, as its use is a physical description of people whose backgrounds may spring from many different cultures. Capitalized white is often used by the white nationalist/white supremacist movement. Do not use as a singular or plural noun. When ethnicity is relevant to the story, ask the source which personal ethnic identifier they use.