In June 2020, the AP Stylebook changed its policy to favor capitalizing Black whenever the word is used in a racial, ethnic, or cultural sense. Meanwhile, white would be lowercase even in corresponding senses. The change occurred after years of consideration and close study.
Here’s the reasoning. Most white people in North America can and do identify themselves as Irish, Scottish, English, French, German, Scandinavian, Italian, etc. The only people who think of a generic “white identity” tend to be white supremacists, who routinely capitalize the word white.
Black people, however, cannot identify themselves as descending from the people of Gambia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Sierra Leone, etc. Part of the centuries-long slave trade involved forcibly stripping Black people of their original cultures—their traditions, their customs, their languages, and their beliefs. When African people were violently uprooted from their ethnically diverse continent, their heritage was purposely and systematically obliterated.
So capitalizing Black merely recognizes that their descendants in the Americas have a shared experience—a certain commonality that transcends any particular African culture and includes all that has happened for many generations. Some may try to insist on the old way of treating Black and white as correlative words that are consistently lowercase. We at LawProse are not among them. We applaud the new policy of the AP Stylebook and the hundreds of publications that have followed suit.