brown / BrownLast updated
Similar to the decision around whether to capitalize Black, some publications and stylebooks opt to capitalize Brown. This is also a matter of debate: Those arguing against capitalization often point out that “brown” as used in the US isn’t defined by a shared social experience or history among those described. As a catchall term, it can flatten important differences between groups. For instance, “brown” could, depending on context, refer to people from Mexico, India, the Philippines, or Iran; or it could describe people who identify as multiracial. At the moment, it’s imprecise and its definition is in flux; therefore, audiences might be better informed with more specific language.
Some publications and organizations feel their audiences are better served by capitalizing the term. The National Association of Black Journalists recommends capitalizing whenever color is used to signify race, including White and Brown. The Chicago Sun-Times, meanwhile, capitalizes it only in specific circumstances like direct quotes, or in a phrase such as “Black and Brown communities.”
As with any such identifier, being as specific as possible and following an individual’s preference whenever possible ensures coverage accurately reflects how someone self-identifies.
- The Washington Post announces writing style changes for racial and ethnic identifiers (Washington Post)
- I’m a brown Arab-American, and the US census refuses to recognize me (Guardian)
Some stylebooks choose to capitalize this term, though those who argue against capitalizing often point out that “brown” as used in the US is an imprecise term and does not carry the same connotation of a shared social experience and history as the term Black. As with any such identifier, being as specific as possible and following an individual’s preference whenever possible ensures coverage accurately reflects how someone self-identifies.