It’s widely argued that the reason that blacks tend to perform poorly in schools and jobs is their fear of being accused by other blacks of "acting white." Thus, in the current issue of The New Republic, linguist John McWhorter, the celebrated black intellectual associated with New York’s Manhattan Institute, lauds the new book Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation by Stuart Buck. McWhorter argues, "Much of the reason for the gap between the grades and test scores of black students and white students was that black teens often equated doing well in school with ‘acting white.’"
In an interview with Buck about his book, Rod Dreher defines "acting white" as when "academically accomplished black students are often accused of being traitors to their race (‘acting white’) because of their good grades and study habits."
Buck’s main argument: blame black underperformance on the paradoxical consequences of integration. He explains:"An integrated school can often appear to black students to be controlled by whites, or to be run in a way that benefits white students. Thus, the black student who tries to curry favor from the white authorities is seen as saying, ‘I'm better than you.’"
... Are blacks held back by fear of "acting white"?
No doubt this is often true. Yet the benefits that whites bestow upon blacks for acting reassuringly white (for example, the White House itself) are so lavish that it’s hardly certain what the net effect is. ...
One peculiarity of this popular "acting white" theory: there is significantly stronger evidence that a lack of intellectual ambition holds back otherwise capable Hispanics (especially Mexican-Americans) than that it greatly debilitates African-Americans. But that never seems to come up in public discussion—probably because, as I’ve argued before, Anglos just find blacks much more interesting than Latinos.
Google finds 14 times as many pages featuring the phrases "African American" and "acting white" as it does "Mexican American" and "acting white." An expensive Harvard study by economist Roland Fryer intended to confirm the "acting white" hypothesis by showing that black students lost friends as they earned higher grades actually wound up demonstrating that this problem is much worse among Latinos.
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