Should we use commas before and after white people in the sentence below or not?

We white people look down upon an African-American boy, girl, man and woman as a potential criminal in this country.

  • Aside: I would argue that you don't "look down on" anyone as something. You just look down at them.
    – ralph.m
    Jun 14, 2018 at 22:58
  • Thanks, @ralph.m. If not, then how do we say the sentence conveying both "look down at someone" and "how we feel they look"? Jun 16, 2018 at 8:33
  • You could just say something like In this country, white people view African-American boys, girls, men and women as potential criminals.
    – ralph.m
    Jun 17, 2018 at 1:55

2 Answers 2


As you have structured the sentence you would use a comma before and after. I would reconsider the structure though.

Something like: As white people we look down upon... (The rest of your sentence)

I am not sure what you are working on but it may be helpful to denote this is an opinion unless you have statements supporting it later. Like if I just said "Cheeseburgers are very good." but didn't quantify I am not offering the reader any reason to consider that statement. If I said "Cheeseburgers are very good. Nationally 10,000 cheeseburgers are consumed a month. There are over 1000 different varieties of cheeseburger and in a national pole Cheeseburgers came in second only to Pizza in Favorite Foods."

Again I have no idea the basis for your question so that may be completely useless but I thought it would be worth mentioning if it is for a piece you are writing.


As far as I'm concerned, the phrase "white people" here is considered an appositive. If the noun being modified is too general, all you have to do is leave the appositive explaining it alone without placing any commas. However, if the noun is already specific, then commas are necessary. And in my opinion, the word "We" here is specific enough; therefore, commas are needed.

  • 2
    I disagree. 'We' merely indicates that the author is speaking as a white person; to add commas would look very clunky to me. Jun 14, 2018 at 16:16
  • But I have looked it up and most of the examples that came up suggested the use of commas. However, I totally agree with you that it looks really clunky.
    – Purich W.
    Jun 14, 2018 at 16:37

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