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Michigan Radio updating style guide and will begin capitalizing ‘Black’

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Michigan Radio is changing its style guide, and as of today will capitalize the word “Black” when referring to a person or group’s race, culture or ethnicity.

Michigan Radio relies on the AP Style Guide and NPR usage for guidance on most usage questions, but because language is dynamic and rules change as language and societies change, we are including this change among the short list of stylistic rules we have that differ from the AP and NPR styles.

We agree with others, including Professor Lori L. Tharps, who assert that “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.”

As language changes and evolves, the word Black, when used in this way, has become a proper noun in English.

“The time has come to put Black on par with other racial identifiers such as African American, Latino or Native American,” said Michigan Radio News Director Vincent Duffy, “It is appropriate, respectful and overdue.”

Michigan Radio is joining other news organizations, like The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and the USA TODAY Network, in making this change, which follows the recommendation from the National Association of Black Journalists.