CNN to Capitalize Both ‘Black’ and ‘White’ in Reference to Race

“Both words denote a racial or ethnic identity and therefore should be upper case,” an email to staff says

CNN Center in Atlanta
The CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

CNN staffers were told Thursday night to begin capitalizing not only “Black,” in reference to race, but “White,” too.

“When referring to the racial categories of Black and White, CNN style is changing to capitalizing both words,” wrote Tim Langmaid, vice president and senior editorial director, in an evening email to staffers.

“Both words denote a racial or ethnic identity and therefore should be upper case when referring to a person, community, culture, etc., in the same way CNN capitalizes other descriptors of race, ethnicity and shared identity, including African American, Native American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Asian American, African, and other terms,” he explained.

Finally, he added, “Please make a note of this change. It is effective immediately.”

The decision comes one week after NBC News and MSNBC issued guidance to staffers that they should begin capitalizing “Black.” The push to capitalize the word in reference to race has come amid national unrest over systemic racism, largely ignited by the death of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day.

This is not the first editorial tweak to company policy that has been made at CNN — or elsewhere — since Floyd’s death.

During a digital staff town hall last week, CNN chief Jeff Zucker outlined how staffers can express themselves personally online in the wake of the unrest, noting staffers are permitted to post the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” They cannot, however, post support for defunding the police, a rallying cry that has grown since Floyd’s death, according to individuals familiar with the matter. On Friday, Zucker reminded staff by email they cannot protest but can attend vigils and make donations to certain types of charities.

In contrast, Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei told employees earlier this month they can participate in Black Lives Matter protests.