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Put Some Respect on my B (not b)

As a Reading Specialist, I think a lot about grammar and syntax, tone and voice, parts of speech, and overall word choice. How and when words are emphasized and the impact that has on the author’s purpose and message. Lately I have found myself at the intersection of Anti-Racist Educator and Reading Specialist. A nuanced place that demands respect for both the conventions of the language in which I speak, but more importantly, respect for the group in which I share a cultural identity. 

Often in the English language, we capitalize proper nouns because they represent a specific person, place, thing, group, or organization – for example, Edjacent, Yaba Blay, or Essence Festival. Some may feel proper nouns are arbitrary because there is no qualitative way to measure who or what receives the capitalization. However, there are moral rules we can follow to guide us through tough decision points. These moral rules are called dignity and humanity. I believe leading with dignity and humanity will help us make thoughtful rules and decisions about culture and identity.

The B in Black should be capitalized because it is used to describe a shared cultural history and identity. The capital B in Black designates a shared connection describing art, culture, people, communities, and traditions. Capitalizing the B in Black is the difference between describing a race or culture and a crayon…a color. That capital B signals we are not common, we are not generic, we are not minor. We are overcomers, we are contributors, we are elevated. We have a shared culture and a powerful history. That capital B is about claiming power over our own history. So next time you write about Black culture, Black music, Black children, Black educators…put some respect on that B.

Melissa Smith is a passionate educational leader who believes equity work is a truth-telling process best done #OUTLOUD: learning in public, holding ourselves and each other accountable, trying new approaches, and working through complex challenges together.

Twitter:  @Meli_Smith3

1 Comment

Rachel Rudo
Rachel Rudo
Oct 10, 2022

Continue to share your pearls of wisdom with us Melissa. Thank you. I am a proud Black woman and I appreciate you educating the world. Thank you


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