B is for Black

a racialized classification of people, usually with African ancestry, who have a wide range of skin colors and complexions

B is for Black

Welcome to our IDEA Glossary series, where we discuss important terminology in the inclusion, diversity, equity and access space, we’re onto B, and  B is for Black (with a capital ‘B’).

There are lots of things I would like to discuss surrounding this term, including the evolution of terminology we used before Black, what it means to be ‘Black’ in Canada and how the meaning of Black is very different depending on where you are in this world. I also think that ‘blackness,’ ‘blaccents,’ and ‘cultural appropriation’ are related topics that deserve their own discussion — that being said, today we’re focusing on the definition of Black.

Here’s our official definition:

Black is a racialized classification of people, usually with African ancestry, who have a wide range of skin colours and complexions.

When it comes to spelling, the capitalization of Black is more necessary now than ever; one thought that resonated with me was from an article by Mike Laws, shared in the Columbia Journalism Review:

To capitalize Black, in her view, is to acknowledge that slavery “deliberately stripped” people forcibly shipped overseas “of all other ethnic/national ties. African American is not wrong, and some prefer it, but if we are going to capitalize Asian and South Asian and Indigenous, for example, groups that include myriad ethnic identities united by shared race and geography and, to some degree, culture, then we also have to capitalize Black.”

Many who consider themselves Black have full or partial African ancestry, whether through Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean or South/Central America. In Canada, 46 percent (547,785) of Black Canadians are of Caribbean origin, and 35 percent (424,840) of Black Canadians are of African immigrant origin.  

People who consider themselves Black may have a wide range of skin complexions. When looking at the content of Africa, there are groups of people whose complexions range from the “deepest black in the Dinka of South Sudan to beige in the San of South Africa.” (Penn Today)

Remember, not everyone is comfortable with the term Black, if you are writing or addressing someone, it’s best to ask first what term they prefer — or even ask yourself first iff it is vital to include the information (as most journalists do). Additionally, the term Black is a noun describing a culture, and it’s never to be used as an adjective or in the plural sense [i.e. Blacks].


I’ve included some resources that may be helpful to understand the term ally a bit better:

  1. Definitions [The British Columbia Black History Awareness Society ]
  2. Black Canadians [Wikipedia]
  3. Diversity of the Black population in Canada: An overview [Stats Canada]
  4. Black Canadians [The Canadian Encyclopedia]
  5. The Case for Capitalizing the B in Black [The Atlantic]
  6. The varying skin colors of Africa: light, dark, and all in between [Penn Today]


Do you have any questions, comments or thoughts on the term black? Leave a comment below and lets discuss.

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  • […] His words discuss change, and the importance of being the change we seek. As time moves forward, the general consensus towards language and the way society views events changes every day. One of the more recent changes is the capitalization of the B in Black,  if you’re interested in learning more about the term Black, feel free to check out my previous post, B is for Black. […]


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