Peter Wegner: Capitalize Brown

2 min

Now that the respected Associated Press Stylebook endorsed the capitalization of the letter B when referring to Black people, Peter Wegner says we should take the move a step further.

A tiny change has found its way onto the printed page. It occupies roughly an eighth of an inch, a handful of pixels on our screens. I’m talking about capitalizing the letter B when referring to Black people.

In the last couple of months, The New York Times and The Washington Post have both implemented this policy. Locally, The Chronicle, The Mercury News and The Tribune have all followed suit. While exact usage specifications vary, capital B is quickly becoming the standard.

The best reason is also the simplest: respect. It’s important on the page because it’s so often denied on the street and in the corridors of power.

There’s another group that experiences racial prejudice with roughly similar results: the millions of people in this country whose skin happens to be brown. They come from many countries, cultures and ethnicities, each distinct and worthy of respect. But at least here, in this country, they’re discriminated against as a group – as Brown people.

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The results of this prejudice are entirely predictable. To consider just one example: Compared to white people, health outcomes are worse in every category for both Brown and Black people – whether from COVID or from simply trying to get across International Boulevard here in Oakland without getting hit.

The suffering of Black and Brown people does not happen in lowercase. An uppercase B restores a modicum of dignity. It signals to the reader: this group is important. The people in it matter.

Capital B for Black people. Capital B for Brown people.

It’s not a revolution, even in the world of typography. It’s incremental, a keystroke’s worth of change. It costs nothing. It is, literally, the least we can do.

With a Perspective, I’m Peter Wegner.

Peter Wegner is an artist living in the East Bay.