Editor's note: Why we now capitalize Black but continue to lowercase white

MPR News recently updated its internal style guide to capitalize the word Black in racial, ethnic and cultural contexts. In doing so, we join several other media organizations across the country — including The Associated Press, The New York Times and the Star Tribune — in capitalizing Black. 

We believe that this change reflects a shared sense of cultures, experiences and history, as well as understanding and respect. 

Our style continues to lowercase white, because it doesn’t represent a collective identity and history in the same way that Black does. Capitalizing white is also a longstanding practice of white supremacists. 

We also now capitalize Indigenous when referring to the original inhabitants of a place. 

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These decisions align with our goal to use language that is inclusive and respectful in our reporting. They are also consistent with our style of capitalizing other racial and ethnic identifiers, such as Asian, Hispanic and Native American. 

Our revisions came after consulting with colleagues, members of the newsroom diversity committee and in evaluating guidance from several organizations, including the National Association of Black Journalists. Earlier this year, the group urged news organizations to capitalize Black in reference to Black people, communities, culture and institutions. 

We understand the importance and complexity of identity, and have directed our staff to identify people in the way they would prefer. That includes names, gender and racial identifiers. Note: Our longstanding guidelines have been to include someone’s race or ethnicity only when it is pertinent. 

We’ll continue to have conversations within and outside of our newsroom about the language we use, and will make changes as necessary and as usage evolves.

Our newsroom is working to become more inclusive — and to ensure our content reflects the diversity of the state we serve. I sit on a 15-member newsroom diversity committee that is moving forward on plans to better track the gender and racial diversity of the people we feature in our stories, improve our onboarding for new employees and audit our coverage of groups historically absented by mainstream media. We also remain committed to strengthening our relationships with Indigenous people and communities of color. 

We welcome your feedback and suggestions. Email us at newsroom@mpr.org or call us at 651-290-1424. 

Nancy Yang is a member of the newsroom's style guide committee, which regularly reviews and updates the internal stylebook. Throughout the year, the style guide committee reviews each entry in the stylebook, and in consultation with MPR News colleagues and experts, recommends updates and revisions.