Erika Hall presents her findings on people who use “African-American” versus “black”:
[A]long with colleagues Katherine Phillips and Sarah Townsend, I conducted a series of studies to determine whether white Americans perceived African Americans more favorably than blacks. In one study, we randomly assigned white participants to associate words with either blacks or African-Americans. Specifically, they selected 10 terms out of a list of 75 (e.g. aggressive, ambitious) that they felt best described each group. The participants that evaluated blacks chose significantly more negative words than those who evaluated African-Americans. Notably, whites did not associate more negative words with “Whites” than with “Caucasians.” …
Naturally, we were interested in nailing down the “Why?” question.
Perhaps, each term evoked different individuals. For example, if White Americans were told that an African-American man was at the door, would they expect a refined gentleman who looked like former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell? If they were told that a black man was at the door, would they expect a more thuggish man who looked like a character from the hit crime series, the Wire? We wondered whether whites perceived blacks as lower socioeconomic status than African-Americans, and we speculated that whites’ feelings toward blacks (vs. African-Americans) could be explained by this factor.
Should concludes with the question, “How many of our youth would have been more rightfully vindicated in the justice system if they were first identified as an ‘African-American’ rather than ‘Black’ suspect?” Meanwhile, Lori L. Tharps insists on capitalizing the “b” in “black”:
Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.
Linguists, academics and activists have been making this point for years, yet the publishing industry — our major newspapers, magazines and books — resist making this simple yet fundamental change. Both Oxford and Webster’s dictionaries state that when referring to African-Americans, Black can be and often is capitalized, but the New York Times and Associated Press stylebooks continue to insist on black with a lowercase b. Ironically, The Associated Press also decrees that the proper names of “nationalities, peoples, races, tribes” should be capitalized. What are Black people, then? …
If we’ve traded Negro for Black, why was that first letter demoted back to lowercase, when the argument had already been won?