A new study was published regarding differences between use of the words “African-American” and “Black.” In the findings, researches discovered that participants in the study were more likely to associate negative words with the term “Black” than “African-American”:

Perhaps, each term evoked different individuals. For example, if White Americans were told that an African-American man was at the door, would they expect a refined gentleman who looked like former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell? If they were told that a black man was at the door, would they expect a more thuggish man who looked like a character from the hit crime series, the Wire? We wondered whether whites perceived blacks as lower socioeconomic status than African-Americans, and we speculated that whites’ feelings toward blacks (vs. African-Americans) could be explained by this factor.

See article here.

The researchers wondered whether the different perceptions evoked by these terms could make a difference when a person is accused of a crime, e.g. are prosecutors more likely to gain a conviction by describing the defendant as “Black” versus “African-American?” The findings could provide a key insight for defendants in determining how they may be perceived by a jury.

In a related article, author Lori Tharps questioned why numerous publications still refuse to capitalize the word “Black” when describing an entire people:

Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.

Linguists, academics and activists have been making this point for years, yet the publishing industry . . . resist making this simple yet fundamental change. Both Oxford and Webster’s dictionaries state that when referring to African-Americans, Black can be and often is capitalized, but the New York Times and Associated Press stylebooks continue to insist on black with a lowercase b. Ironically, The Associated Press also decrees that the proper names of “nationalities, peoples, races, tribes” should be capitalized. What are Black people, then? …

See article here.

When combined with the findings of the researches, Tharps’s insight raises the question– do publications that use a lower case “b” inadvertently contribute to psychological subjugation? If people are trained to dissociate an entire race of individuals from its collective, and reduce that race to a mere color, do these publications make it easier to marginalize the individual in a way that might prejudice them in the legal system?

If you have questions about discrimination or criminal law, contact the attorneys at Bryan & Terrill Law in Tulsa, OK, 918-935-2777.