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Why Black and Indigenous Identities Deserve a Capital Letter

By Manna Zelealem

At Youth To The People, we’re not afraid of questioning or challenging the status quo. Our brand was built on strong values, one of them being Good To The People—that calls us to constantly expand our definition of inclusivity and promote healthy growth in one another and ourselves. At YTTP, we tend to grow through candid conversations.

In one of our more recent conversations about identity and privilege, we discussed how selective journalism is with whose identity deserves a capital letter. The Associated Press Stylebook expects writers to capitalize nationalities, races, and tribes, and most publications lowercase the words Black and Indigenous to comply with AP style. In our editorial spaces moving forward, Youth To The People will capitalize the words Black and Indigeneous when referring to people, race, ethnicity, and communities in order to better acknowledge the cultural identity those terms represent. Here’s why:

The words Black and Indigenous aren’t just descriptors; they are entire histories, heritages, lifelines. European imperialism used colonialism to destroy and erase Black and Indigenous societies across the world, and capitalizing these words recognizes the culture and complexity that have existed within them for centuries. Slavery wasn’t the onset of Black history, but it would create a cycle of intergenerational trauma rooted in the treatment of people as property. Encaptured African people originating from varying countries and tribes found it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with one another and the people who captured them; children were auctioned off from their families; and because literate Black people were considered criminal, family histories often went unrecorded or were only shared verbally.

Our world wouldn’t be what it is without the work of Black and Indigenous communities. Being Good To The People means respecting the people, and capitalizing these identifiers is a small change that speaks volumes to one’s right to self-identification after centuries of erasure

We’re happy to be openly talking about the things that matter, and to be sharing that conversation with you, our community. After all, that’s how we grow. 

Edited by Alyssa Shapiro