Sharing: Words Matter

The editors of the website Fusion have made a style choice decision to use Black and White as adjectives only, not nouns, when referring to people.

Good idea?

In a Reply below, suggest another style choice editors should always make that is too often violated. Or simply express your opinion about this one.

About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels. www.davidbdale.wordpress.com
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20 Responses to Sharing: Words Matter

  1. studentwriter1212 says:

    The use of an adjective without adding people or person demotes an identity to only the adjective being brought up which is negative in nature.

    • davidbdale says:

      It certainly seems that way, and was clearly intended to seem that way in the context in which the choice was presented to us, but is it always true, studentwriter? Consider the example of “artistic people,” versus “artists,” or “people who make art.” Do artists object, when they’re referred to as artists, that to be so identified limits their humanity or identifies them only by one aspect of their personalities?

  2. chancetoremember says:

    I really like the idea of not referring to people as “blacks” and “whites”. Using these words as adjectives only instead of nouns is a really great idea. It can be offensive to just define people by their skin color. This simple change will help for people of all races to feel more comfortable and not to feel objectified by their race. People are people, not just a color.

    • davidbdale says:

      I agree with you, chancetoremember, but with reservations. I too like “not referring to people as ‘blacks’ and ‘whites'” when to do so reduces them to just one characteristic. But imagine this pre-election demographic report: Men by a large majority report they will vote for A; most women say they’ll vote for B; whites for C, and blacks for D.

      We don’t object to characterizing half of the voters as men, half as women, so why should we object to characterizing half of the voters as whites, half as blacks?

      I’m not suggesting there’s no advantage to saying “white voters” and “black voters.” It would probably make many people more comfortable. But we still need to be brave and say what makes race different than gender in this case. We would never, I think, insist that men be called “male voters” and women “female voters.” Would we?

  3. therealjohnsanchez says:

    People often call undocumented immigrants illegal aliens.

  4. kingoflizards says:

    Recently in headlines, I have been seeing something that seems somewhat disrespectful. People refer to our president as “Trump.” Now this is not a new phenomenon, as people referred to our old president as “Obama.” However, I feel that this is somewhat disrespectful. I think that it should be President Trump, or President Obama. Using just the last name is something that articles and news -services do all the time, but it feel disrespectful. These men have worked their entire lives to earn the title of President, and I think that it should be used.

    • davidbdale says:

      That’s an interesting reaction, King. I understand what you mean. We feel it more for the parties we admire.

      Customarily in academic writing, and usually in newsprint, an individual will be fully named in the first appearance: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example; the second and subsequent times by last name only: King. You can understand why, in headlines, brevity dictates “Trump,” or “Obama,” or “Bush,” etc. But in the body of the text, I could go with President Trump every time, or at least Mr. Trump. Respectful publications will usually at least Mister him.

      Interesting (to me) side note: The one president who truly wanted to be utterly informal and preferred to be called Jimmy more than anything else, was universally referred to as Carter for the better (or worse) part of his administration.

  5. chippy1313 says:

    I agree with what the people in the video were saying and that we shouldn’t use the word “the” in front of blacks and whites because they are adjectives, not nouns. I think it makes more sense to call someone a “white person” or “black person” instead of shortening it to “whites and blacks.” Another example would be the homeless, instead of calling them homeless people. With this style of speaking you have to be careful not to offend any particular groups.

    • davidbdale says:

      I pretty much agree, chippy, but as I suggested in a comment above, I can’t 100% concur because artistic people express no offense at all being referred to as artists. What makes these situations different?

  6. nickalodeansallthat says:

    I feel editors should stop using words that define new people in this country by their race alone, they came to this country to escape something, not get put into more danger cause that’s what happens when you define them solely by race.

    • davidbdale says:

      I don’t completely follow this comment, Nick, because I don’t think editors generally use a racial term to refer to “new people.” I support your concern about putting anybody at risk, but I don’t think I know what terms do that.

  7. aeks123 says:

    This video shows that words so matter, especially describing people. In my opinion, referring to people as “blacks and whites” does objectify them and should be called “black person” or “white person.”

    • davidbdale says:

      I agree with you, aeks, but with reservations. I too like “not referring to people as ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’” when to do so objectifies them. But imagine this pre-election demographic report: Men by a large majority report they will vote for A; most women say they’ll vote for B; whites for C, and blacks for D.

      We don’t object to characterizing half of the voters as men, half as women, so why should we object to characterizing half of the voters as whites, half as blacks?

      I’m not suggesting there’s no advantage to saying “white voters” and “black voters.” It would probably make many people more comfortable. But we still need to be brave and say what makes race different than gender in this case. We would never, I think, insist that men be called “male voters” and women “female voters.” Would we?

      I’d like your reaction. I think the situation is at least a little bit complicated.

  8. romanhsantiago says:

    I understand the style choice that fusion is making in regards to defining people by their race rather than categorizing them for who they are as a person not just a race. However I believe there is no offense to people in regards to the title. I simply do not see any significant difference between “the blacks” and “The black people.” I have come to this conclusion because being a hispanic male in America i am not offended when people refer to my race as “the hispanics” as opposed to “the hispanic people.”

    • davidbdale says:

      I appreciate that perspective, Roman, and I’m glad to hear that nouns of nationality or ethnicity aren’t always offensive. For example (although I am not culturally entitled to decide), I would expect that there’s no important difference between saying 1 or 2:

      1. Compared to non-Hispanics, Hispanics voted more often for X.
      2. Compared to non-Hispanic people, voters who identify as Hispanic voted more often for X.

      Is anything gained by editorially insisting on 2? I really don’t know, so I’m asking for your help here.

  9. therealmoana says:

    Editors shouldn’t use words that group and categorize people based on their appearances. But I do not see the difference between using the blacks and black people because it is used so often that we overlook and don’t pay mind to it.

    • davidbdale says:

      I think you’re right, Moana, but there’s a little bit of wiggle room here for reasonable people to disagree. Things that are said “so often that we overlook and don’t pay” attention to them might still be offensive to some people and, for the most part, they get to decide. A generation ago, American businessmen (they were always men) referred to their female employees as “the girls in the office” so routinely that nobody (except probably the women in the office) paid attention.

      What do you think?

  10. thecommonblackhawk says:

    Something that I would love to see change not only with editors but with society is the level that race plays in everyday conversation. I feel that we are at a point in our countries history that race should stop being a factor completely. When traveling to France, the French people are referred to as just that.French. They aren’t African-French nor are they Spanish-French. They are just French. So why is it that in our country, race is a factor? Why do we have African Americans or Hispanic Americans? We all are and should be addressed as solely “Americans.” In my opinion, the issue of race will always be an issue as long as we keep it alive. It is very prevalent in the news when they use headlines like “White Cop Kills Black Teenager” or “The African American Community.” We as a country are better than that. We are all Americans and should stop using adjectives to separate us from one another.

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