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When describing a group of black people, the word black should be used as an adjective. For example “black people” or “black power”. It is inappropriate to add “the” in front of the word black or make it a plural noun, as in saying “the Blacks.” Adding “the” creates a distance and a negative “other.” If you are unsure of what to call someone, the best thing to do is ask them what they would prefer to be called.

There are specific circumstances in which the use of the term “Blacks” as a noun is acceptable, but it is very dependent on several factors, specifically:

  • Who says it
  • How they say it
  • The context in which they say it
  • The intention
  • Who they are describing

Some people take pride in their background and race, so using the word “Blacks” as a noun can be used to demonstrate their struggles, while also reinforcing how their background does not define their identity or success. For example: “There were laws that made it illegal for Blacks and Whites to be buried in the same cemetery”. There is not discrimination in that phrase because “Blacks” and “Whites” have been described the same way. Using that type of phrasing has much more impact than saying: “There were laws that made it illegal for black people and white people to be buried in the same cemetery.”

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