“The lowercase B in Black has never made sense to me as a Black woman, and it didn’t make sense to me as a Black girl,” said Destinée-Charisse Royal, a senior staff editor in the Graphics department and one of the editors consulted on the change. “My thought was that the capital B makes sense as it describes a race, a cultural group, and that is very different from a color in a box of crayons.”
The style change is one of dozens of other updates or additions that have been made to The Times’s usage guide this year, Mr. Abrams said. The decisions can take anywhere from hours to months. Suggestions for changes are typically submitted by staff through email or an online form, filtered into a spreadsheet and parsed each month by the Standards team.
New entries, intentionally, can often lag behind the most current language. Ms. Royal likened new style guidance to new dictionary entries: The Times adds words once people are already widely using them, not before.
“We don’t treat the stylebook as an instrument of activism; we don’t view it as at the vanguard of language,” Mr. Abrams said. “We generally want the stylebook to reflect common usage.”
Most updates don’t require much input or approval from other editors, but on sensitive issues, he said, particularly those that reach every corner of Times coverage, a range of perspectives is vital.
“Some have been pushing for this change for years,” Mr. Lacey said. “They consider Black like Latino and Asian and Native American, all of which are capitalized. Others see the change as a distraction from more important issues. Then there are those troubled that our policy will now capitalize ‘Black’ but not ‘white.’ Over all, the view was that there was a growing agreement in the country to capitalize and that The Times should not be a holdout.”
Before the style change, Ms. Royal said, some writers might have been inclined to use African-American — the only uppercase option, and still acceptable per the Times stylebook — even when Black might have been more accurate.