This past June, the Supreme Court issued Terry v. United States, in which Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, used the adjective black. In her partial concurrence, Justice Sonia Sotomayor capitalized it: Black. She was the first justice — apart from a 1971 anomaly in an opinion by Justice William O. Douglas — to use the capitalized Black as a racial designation. Until April of this year, her opinions uniformly put the term in lowercase.
The shift doubtless reflects the changing standards of style guides, many of which in 2020 started recommending Black over black. Mind you, the debate on …
This article appears as “The Court Denotes Race” in the November 1, 2021, print edition of National Review.
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