Race

'Acting White' Remains a Barrier for Black Education

Blaming the issue on society is like telling someone on a rainy day not to use an umbrella, but to support efforts to eliminate weather.

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Talk about language
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Here we go again. A black woman (see photo at right) has articulately battled the idea that using standard English is "acting white" in a video that has gone viral of late, and Jamelle Bouie at Slate has called her out for propagating a myth that black students devalue school. In the eighties, (black) anthropologist John Ogbu with Signithia Fordham argued that black kids underperform in school partly because those who behave scholarly are teased as being "white," such that often fitting in means letting one's grades slip. And indeed, legions of nerdy black kids are familiar with black peers saying "Why are you working so hard on that school stuff? You think you're white?"

However, the documentation of this has always rankled those who prefer to document black problems as due to institutional racism rather than cultural problems, and over the past ten years, it has become popular to claim that it has been "refuted" that black kids think of school as "white" and that this lowers black scholastic performance.

But the people taking that position have a way of serenely neglecting counterarguments, not to mention embracing starkly shaky argumentation as authoritative simply because it makes what they regard as the better music. For example, one supposed piece of evidence that the "acting white" bit isn't a problem is that if you ask black kids if they value school they say yes. But this is hardly the smackdown argument people suppose. Last time I checked, race and racial self-identification were a subtle business. Who's up for asking Donald Sterling whether he likes black people? Aren't these sociologists, educators and journalists such as Bouie exactly the people who would laugh out the room a study claiming that you can identify people's inner racism by asking them about it?

It's careful work that shows that indeed, black American teen identity often includes a sense of school as the province of whites—which is hardly surprising given black Americans' history in this country. Clifton Casteel did a study in Elementary School Guidance and Counseling in 1997 in which white eighth and ninth graders tended strongly to say they did homework for their parents, while black kids said they did homework for their teachers—that is, the black kids had a quiet sense that school was not for what "we" are at heart. Then, Harvard's Roland Fryer has shown that among black teens, the better one does in school the fewer people report him or her as a friend—and to much more of an extent than among kids of other races.

The evidence continues. Newspaper coverage of the phenomenon has been rich. John Ogbu wrote a whole book squarely documenting black kids being told that doing well in school was white. After I wrote Losing the Race in 2000, I was surprised by thousands of letters, including over a hundred from black people explicitly attesting that they were teased as "white" for liking school, as well as from concerned teachers wondering what to do about black kids coming to them and telling them about this happening. I could go on, and on, and on (and have, elsewhere). The evidence is of crushing weight.

But no, all of this is apparently mere "anecdotes," refuted by the fact that if you ask black kids whether they respect school they say yes. Or, beyond that, people who want to wish the "acting white" problem away have a rather extraordinary collection of further feints.

The "acting white is a myth" crowd see quite the weapon in, for example, Tyson, Darity and Castellino's finding that it's mostly in integrated schools that the "acting white" charge flares up. Their implication seems to be that because it isn't an issue among poor black kids, it basically isn't an issue at all. But whence suddenly the idea that only poor black kids' problems matter? Anyone can see that the reason poor black kids underachieve is lousy schools, not being called "white," but surely we aren't under the impression that there are so few middle class black students in 2014 that their problems qualify as mere static. That black kids suffer this in advantaged circumstances such as these is exactly why the "acting white" issue is a problem.

Meanwhile, another purported riposte to people like me is studies showing that problems like poverty, poor schools, and economic duress "disprove" that the acting white charge is significant. However, they do not—they merely show that the issue is multifaceted. The question is why a widespread brand of social rejection would not have an effect, and a serious one, on grades; people claiming "acting white" is a myth have no answer to that question.

Then, we are informed that white kids get made fun of for being nerds, too. But once again, the people claiming that there is nothing race-specific about this issue are almost willfully playing dumb. It's one thing to be called nerd, but to be told you are disqualifying yourself from your race, with its implications that your presentation of yourself as black is fake, lends a particular sting. It is, quite simply, worse than being called a nerd. Why it is that people otherwise sitting always at the ready to remind us that in subtle but powerful ways, race matters, on this issue suddenly become color-blind?

The reason is that ironically, given that they readily designate people like me as working from bias, it is these detractors who are working from a deep-seated ideology rather than empiricism. They are viscerally dedicated to tracing black problems to structural problems in America's workings, and vigorously deep-sixing any idea that black people might also have some self-standing cultural issues to think about as intellectually mistaken, and probably immoral.

Never mind if someone carefully notes that the cultural problem is a legacy of racism in the past—that isn't enough. To speak of black cultural problems other than in passing is to "pathologize" black people, tout court. For example, what's being identified as black issue must be re-identified as a Southern one, or class-based—which is like a Russian saying that addressing alcoholism in Russia as a Russian problem is wrong because Finns and Swedes drink a lot too. Or, Bouie and others try an idea that it's speech and dress that are being made fun of, rather than being bookish, despite endless reports that the taunt is indeed directly about the books.

Quite simply, there are no human groups with no disadvantageous cultural traits. Practices become entrenched at first for concrete reasons, but can hold on past the circumstances that created them, piggybacking on other human leanings (think Albanian blood feuds). The "acting white" bit, for example, is compatible with teenagers' tribal impulse and is also handy for assuaging insecurity about schoolwork.

But these sociologists and journalists somehow cannot comprehend that cultural traits do not walk in lockstep with societal forces. To them, we're wrong to warn black kids not to fall for the "acting white" slur. They bristle to see media pieces teaching the public to care about it. Instead, we are to battle societal inequity and institutional racism. To me, this sounds like telling someone about to go outside on a rainy day not to use an umbrella, but to support efforts to eliminate weather.

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  1. Reparations will fix it…

    1. Yeah, once the northerners get compensated for all the blood they shed, the deaths they suffered and the treasure they expended to free the slaves, everything will be much better!

      1. Oh yeah, them too. I was referring to the descendants of Chinese rail workers

        1. That’s Chinese rail SLAVES!

  2. However, the documentation of this has always rankled those who prefer to document black problems as due to institutional racism rather than cultural problems…

    Because they gain power from it. “Empowering” any group by portraying them as a victim of outside influences with little personal control or responsibility for their lot in life will get you a following.

  3. If you guys ever get a chance, read Shelby Steele books about race and affirmative action. It’s a great read and it pisses the so called black intellectuals off.

    Anyway, I went to school in the burbs and in the city and let me tell you, it was night and day. In the burbs there were this expectation that you did well and if not you were derided. In the city schools, failure was a badge of honor.

    1. I went to schools in a blue-collar suburb and a white-collar suburb, and I noticed the same thing. I’m allowed to say this because it refers to the European-American working class, which even the most PC SJW’s are willing to criticize.

  4. Since only whites are capable of racism, this thing about black kids criticizing other black kids for “acting white” is just plain impossible. It can’t be happening. Because that would be racist, and the white race is the only race that is racist.

    1. Yes I believe the argument goes that racism is only possible when one ‘has power’ to manifest it. Nevermind that they don’t consistently apply that argument to South Africa and Zimbabwe where there is/was a white genocide by black nationalist governments. For they had power, but were “undoing the damage of white racism” by seizing their property and systematically permitting their rape and murder in the name of social justice.

    2. Obviously a result of discontinuing ebonics as a tool of the educator. Ebonics should immediately be added to Common Core.

      1. Now known as: Common Core Beotch.

      2. You jest, but there were (and maybe are) some serious efforts out there to legitimize Ebonics (AAVE is the technical term) in schools. Not so much to ‘teach’ it, as to essentially not correct it, and teach the kids as though there was nothing ‘wrong’ with their ‘dialect’ — Hell, even linguists claim AAVE is a legitimate ‘English dialect’ which is patently ridiculous to me.

  5. One of my friends from years ago is black. You would only know that by the color of her skin. Nothing else about her is “black”. She sounds like a white girl on the phone. She listens to heavy metal and married a white guy. She hated her black peers because they heavily teased her because she had proper grammar, which her mother instilled in her from a young age.

    She even related how she hung around skin heads and loosely white supremacists who somehow forgot she was black (I’m not sure if that’s true or not). But she didn’t like black people at all, even though she, herself, is very dark skinned.

    1. “She even related how she hung around skin heads and loosely white supremacists who somehow forgot she was black (I’m not sure if that’s true or not).”

      I believe it, every “racist” I’ve ever known always seemed to hate what they deemed to be the black culture, and not the people themselves. Some even had black friends, but would still bitch to me about how blacks do this or that, at least when they weren’t around.

      Only real hardcore nazi psychos go on and on about genetics, and bloodlines, and all that other bullshit.

      1. I remember hearing as a kid “there are black people and then there are n*ggers”. A way to soften the racist blow I guess.

        1. You knew Chris Rock?

          1. Does he say that?

              1. Oh, and NSFW, obviously.

                1. duh

                  1. the “duh” was about the NSFW

        2. I’ve heard that too from people, and I think there are a lot of blacks who agree with that statement. No different then when whites call low-life whites “white trash”.

          1. My girlfriend hates when I refer to some people as “white trash.”

            1. Then she must not have spent much time around them. Familiarity breeds contempt.

            2. White trash is a plague on the earth. There’s nothing ok about people who are stupid on purpose.

              1. AMEN!

                Worse yet, stupid people breed faster.

                We have created a society that encourages stupid as a genetic survival trait!

            3. In my yute in the deep south in the 80s, folks would sometimes say “white trash” to mean “not really white people”, allowing the speaker to continue making generalizations with a whole class of counterexamples conveniently swept under the rug.

              For that reason, I try to avoid using the phrase.

              1. No they meant poor, stupid, mean white people.

          2. I’ve know some white people who are harder on trailer trash than anyone else. I don’t know if it is because it is PC or they have more direct interaction with trailer people.

            1. The term ‘rainbow trash’ is more inclusive and is race-neutral.

              1. Wouldn’t that be like gay people who are trash?

            2. Probably both.

            3. I hate the term ‘trailer trash’. I don’t get demeaning people who get up and go to work every day, put food on the table and a roof over their kid’s head just because with low wage jobs a trailer is the best they can afford.

              1. I don’t get demeaning people who get up and go to work every day, put food on the table and a roof over their kid’s head just because with low wage jobs a trailer is the best they can afford.

                Those people aren’t “trailer trash.” “Trailer trash” are the people with no job, on foodstamps/ wellfare, meth lab in the back, lazy-assed mother fuckers who have no ambition, no work ethic, etc. You get the idea.

              2. I hate the term ‘trailer trash’. I don’t get demeaning people who get up and go to work every day, put food on the table and a roof over their kid’s head just because with low wage jobs a trailer is the best they can afford.

                A shocking proportion of the poor, especially white poor, are poor by their own doing.

                I think the term ‘trailer trash’ should be reserved for those who by a 12 pack of beer and 3 packs of smokes every night, are prone to drama and conflict in their relationships and who often drive a car that’s more valuable than the structure in which they house their 6 children.

            4. “I’ve know some white people who are harder on trailer trash than anyone else. I don’t know if it is because it is PC”

              That is the mating call of liberals who like to openly demonstrate their non racism. It allows them to put others down but in an enlightened way.

        3. I have heard that before and I tend to agree with it. What it means is some blacks (N*ggers) are savages and others are decent people.

          If you don’t understand that, then you are a fool… or a liberal, but I repeat myself.

        4. Of course. For instance, Charles Barron is the NYC council’s official nigger. If you were to look up “nigger” in the dictionary, you’d see his picture.

      2. It may be that way. One of the stories she told me about with regards to those folks was one of them was really running down black people and how much he hated them. She pointed to her skin and he said something like, “oh, you don’t count.”

      3. Just about every openly “racist” (white but also including asians) person I know has expressed some sentiment similar to “they’re not all bad”, basically reserving their slurs for the ebonically inclined and being polite towards the black men whose pants are attached at the waist as opposed to their knees. I mean bigotry is bigotry, but it shows you how culture really does play a role in the formation of bigotry.

        Needless to say, black culture has a sickness characterized by self-inflicted isolationism and deficient moral values. I truly believe that if those were dealt with, the number of “racists” in existence would be basically negligible as there would be no obvious way for people to rationalize their racist bigotry.

        1. My experience is the same. I know only one white racist who has no black friends, and I think he maintains his racism to justify his belief in the overwhelming importance of genetics and biology generally in human behavior; counter-examples would be inconvenient.

          1. Funny about some of my other friends who are or were racist. One of them believes in the genetic inferiority of blacks behaviorally, and the darker the worse, but he has lots of black friends because he is black. Another, who has died since (father of Damon Lindelof, the impresario of Lost), believed affirmative action & the like should be continued forever, because blacks being genetically inferior would always need the help.

            Which reminds me, today it occurred to me that there may well have been another clue I’d been overlooking in Lost: lookalike characters may have had different leitmotifs. I’m going to have to watch & listen again with that in mind, because it seems like a clue they would’ve supplied.

            1. believed affirmative action & the like should be continued forever, because blacks being genetically inferior would always need the help.

              Such are the origins of virtually every social welfare program in the United States. LBJ famously bragged that he’d “have those niggers voting Democrat for the next 200 years” while trying to get the Great Society programs passed.

              But Lost has soooo many episodes I don’t imagine I could ever stand to watch it all the way through again. Maybe in like 30 years.

            2. I dream of a time when Lindelof is referred to as “the co-creator of The Leftovers” instead. (And I say that as a pretty big Lost fan.)

    2. So apparently, you can’t get more white than Maya Angelou.

      1. Black academics are permitted in the lucrative fields of; black studies, black poetry and black fiction (aka everything-is-racist-ology)

        1. Yes, how often have you heard Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, or Justice Thomas referred to as “Uncle Toms” or “white on the inside” or “oreos”?

          1. Just about anytime I’ve talked to an “anti-racist” progressive. They sure do like everyone to fit into their little boxes.

          2. ESPN’s Rob Parker called RGIII a “cornball brother” because he speaks the King’s English, made good grades, and isn’t “down with the cause”.

            In other words, he’s acting white.

  6. And if you *really* want to piss off a homie, tease him about “acting Asian”.

    1. Get with the program. When we’re talking about education, Asians don’t exist.

      1. Well, they’re outliers, anyway.

  7. However, the documentation of this has always rankled those who prefer to document black problems as due to institutional racism rather than cultural problems, and over the past ten years, it has become popular to claim that it has been “refuted” that black kids think of school as “white” and that this lowers black scholastic performance.

    McWhorter writes this, yet he will continue to declare his allegiance to the Democratic Party, which holds the argument he criticizes as its Nicene and Apostles’ Creed. Until he settles this contradiction, he has no moral standing in which to support his argument.

  8. Q) Know why you never see a black dude at a square dance?

    A) Every time he hears “Hoedown” he thinks his woman been shot!

    That joke of course only refers to real black dudes. Black dudes who act white don’t count, since they aren’t really black.

    1. Black dudes who act white don’t count, since they aren’t really black.

      Like Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice.

    2. I’m chuckling as I type.

    1. If you ever get a chance to see these guys, do it. They’re fantastic. Only problem is they’re also academics, and will talk your ears off about the origins of the songs and the development of folk music and so on.
      Still, highly recommended.

  9. This continues way past high school unfortunately. Basically other black people think you are uppity and give you a hard time if you are proud of your education and don’t talk a certain way. However, if you buy into black collectivism and support the right causes you are seen as ok. If you give a shit about individual freedom and don’t think taxes are the answer to everything, watch out. If you happen to date or marry somebody not dark enough really watch out.

    1. I agree. I would say this happens mostly in the lower economic classes and generally from a loud minority of middle class. I think a lot of it has to do with jealousy and the collectivist attitude many blacks have about being black – it’s difficult to grasp the idea that we are individuals when everyone, internally and externally – refer to all of us as one “community”.

  10. I grew up in a school system that was 65% black with a high-school pregnancy rating that was consistently the highest in the city. Being a bright young lad raised in a home where you would get a literal ass-whipping for being racist I could see definite educational disparities.

    As an advanced student in all my public schooling years I didn’t miss the fact that in a school system that was largely black with some Mexican I never saw more than two blacks in any of my honors classes and they were usually nerdy black girls. In high school a tiny number of young black men did seem to buck the trend and literally just did not care about their piers and excelled but they were treated very differently by the average gang-banger or black jock type.

    This is pure anecdote and I’m uninterested in bashing black people but what strikes me the most about my public school ed on this topic is that I actually knew of some very intelligent blacks who were even gang-bangers that SHOULD of been in advanced classes but to achieve at that level would have resulted in a total social rejection by most, if not all, of their piers.

    1. piers peers

      1. I hope you realize this was an honest mistake and don’t dock his grade unfairly.

        1. No ifs, ands, or boats.

        2. Yeah. That would be a hardship.

          1. Stop it, you’re keeling me.

      2. Christ. I multitask and I promise to return the favor, old boy.

        1. Oh buoy!

          1. Not sure if you should take a bow or get a stern warning.

      3. Well, as long as we’re piling on, “SHOULD of” = “SHOULD have”, and I’m sure it’s pregnancy rate, not rating, unless there are style points given.

        1. Fuck me. I hadn’t planned on my comment being wrung through the rinse cycle of a bunch of nitpicking pedants who aren’t drunk yet. You guys get up on the wrong side of the fat girl today?

    2. He never said he was bright now, just back in the day.

    3. SHOULD of SHOULD’VE/SHOULD have

      😉

      1. Got me. I knew better. I’ll return the favor someday.

    4. Two words:

      COMMON CORE

  11. A black judge said yesterday when he sentenced a brother for killing another brother (paraphrasing): “You’re modern slaves. Going to prison, you will wear the Master’s clothes and follow the Master’s schedule”.

    1. Wait a sec…wouldn’t wearing the master’s clothes be a step up?

  12. I can’t really blame black Americans for wanting to differentiate themselves from white Americans if they view them as an enemy/oppressor. I’m mean we have freedom fries and the French have jack to do with the average American.

    1. Kind of like how feminists want to break down that which differentiates men and women? Well, when it suits them.

      Of course, feminists want men to be more like women, and I’m not sure that carries over to blacks wanting whites to be more like them.

  13. I hate to say it, but my suspicion is that those dismissing the “acting white” factor do so because they want the factor to remain in place. After all, aren’t they the ones most likely to challenge the legitimacy of a non-cooperator’s racial identity(if you don’t think so, try asking Clarence Thomas or Condoleeza Rice about it)? The result is to keep the target population safely dependent and therefore compliant.

  14. According to this lady, it’s “ASK”, not “AXE”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHZwOqLrF2M

    1. Is it the year 3000 yet?

      1. I only clicked on that link because I was expecting a Futurama scene.

        1. Hwaaaa? it’s not?

  15. Never thought I’d see the day when I’d see a name so close to ‘McWhore’.

  16. In America, black people have always been welcomed to sit in the front of the bus if they could pass for white.

    If black kids gave up the rap music, the clothes, the lingo, the black power, voted republican, lived off of welfare and just did without sneakers/tv/iphone/etc., did their homework, and obeyed when instructed by police, white people would not have a problem with them.

    1. What?

      1. The Alice Bowie has the Fear of the Black Planet.

    2. Not sure if this is parody or not…

      1. Neither is Alice; he’s not the sharpest knife.

    3. If white southern kids would give up the country music, the overalls, the twang, the white power, voted democrat, and just did without the boots/big trucks/chewing tobacco/etc., did their marches, and obeyed the government agents, progressives would not have a problem with them.

      1. +1 role reversal

      2. Kind of a big omission there. Something that rhymes with runs.

      3. How about white northern kids, as in very northern?

        https://www.facebook.com/Stevenseagulls

        I especially recommend their “Thunderstruck”.

    4. Idiot. You are expressing an extreme opinion. Is it asking too much that they behave like they are civilized? Do you even know what that means?

      Take Ferguson as a case in point.

      1. Yes like most people tend to act civilized when they are actively being oppressed. John cite some examples for me of people who have been civil after being treated unjustly?

        1. how about EVERY civil dispute taken to court rather than settled via street fight or a duel.

        2. Or how about every time an unjust law has been challenged in court rather than by burning totally unrelated private property to the ground and looting nearby businesses.

        3. *Yes like most people tend to act civilized when they are actively being oppressed. *

          Yeah, that convenience store clerk was actively oppressing that gentle giant by insisting he pay for those Swisher Sweets.

  17. Look, I’m sure all the people telling her that her lived experience is not PC, and thus didn’t happen, are from less privileged groups, and not a bunch of highly educated, wealthy, lily white progs.

    1. One of my college experiences was having to listen to a dumbass professor from a wealthy, all white, suburb in New England explain to me and other students, who grew up in far more diverse areas, all our misconceptions about black people.

      1. ^^^This, this, this!! I went to public HS that was 90% African-American and had this same experience in college.

  18. Even though Ogbu argued for the reality of the “acting white” phenomenon, that’s not his most important point. He distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary minorities (immigrants vs. native blacks who could be considered a lower “caste”). Fixing underlying social and economic inequities would seem to be the solution for any problem we’re talking about. Or we could try Bill Cosby-esque lectures and see how long that takes to work. When do we get to decide that lecturing black people has failed and try the other path of reducing endemic economic inequalities?

    1. Tony|10.8.14 @ 10:14AM|#
      …”Fixing underlying social and economic inequities would seem to be the solution for any problem we’re talking about.”…

      Yeah, dipshit, we’ve been paying for your “fixes” for the past 60 years and they haven’t done squat.
      But that’s never stopped lefty imbeciles, has it?

      1. I know, I know… giving money to poor black people makes them lazy. (While giving money to white rich people makes them create jobs!)

        1. I know, I know… giving money to poor black people makes them lazy.

          I know you’d prefer to keep them on the leftist plantation.

          (While giving money to white rich people makes them create jobs!)

          You can’t give someone what they already have. Not stealing from people, prevents the destruction of ‘jobs’ aka ‘creates jobs’.

          1. Semantic bullshit doesn’t change the fact that you’re still putting more money in their pockets than they had before. Libertarian semantic sleight-of-hand changes the laws of physics?

            1. Tony, you don’t have to agree, but I don’t think you understand the argument on the other side.

              Someone who disagrees thinks that:

              1) Paying people not to work encourages them (on average) to work less.

              2) Paying people to work encourages them (on average) to work more.

              So if you take a group of people and say “We will give you some money, but only if you agree to limit your work to the underground economy”, that group will probably work less on average.

              If you take a group and say “you’re getting paid less/more per hour than you earned last year”, you would expect them to work on average less/more than they otherwise would have.

            2. Semantic bullshit doesn’t change the fact that you’re still putting more money in their pockets than they had before.

              It’s not more than they had before if it was their money to begin with.

              Libertarian semantic sleight-of-hand changes the laws of physics?

              I don’t see how owning what you produce is a semantic difference, nor do I see how government redistrubution schemes are governed by the ‘laws of physics’.

              1. It’s not more than they had before if it was their money to begin with.

                You don’t seem to understand. According to Tony, it’s all the government’s money and some people get to keep what they’ve earned for the government. But allowing them to keep too much is evil if another person doesn’t get given enough (especially if that person is from one of the protected classes).

        2. Re: Tony,

          I know, I know… giving money to poor black people makes them lazy. (While giving money to white rich people makes them create jobs!)

          Oh, no, you’re wrong. It also makes them lazy. Obama proved it (with Solyndra et al.)

          Or turns them into cronies, which is the same thing.

          1. You’re so fucking stupid.

        3. Right. Obama’s been a real corporate welfare shill. Sure it placates the ignorant Democratic base to campaign on raising taxes on the rich, but he simultaneously says nothing about the Federal Reserve members he appointed doling out $85Billion/month to Wall Street or has supported taking nearly $1 Trillion out of the treasury in direct payments so that big businesses would have money to create “shovel ready jobs.”

          1. And then, later, when confronted about those “shovel-ready jobs” that never materialized, he LITERALLY waved it off with a chuckle. As if to say, “Yeah yeah, we all know how the game is played.”

    2. Oh? You mean like giving them more welfare and more “affirmative action” jobs? Tony, you are a fool.

      The way to reduce economic inequalities is to stay in school, don’t have children you can’t support and get a job. Moron.

      1. As I said, we’ll see how well lecturing works. It’s a mystery why blacks are so disproportionately incapable of having children they can’t afford or getting jobs. If it’s not underlying economic issues then it must be something else. What could it be? Care to say explicitly what you think it is?

        1. Care to say explicitly what you think it is?

          They participate in and promote a degenerate culture where 7 out of 10 children grow up without a father and of those who do it’s quite often a a revolving door of male figures who abuse them. That and as far as hitting children goes, no group in the US does it more often and more severely than blacks. Not to mention the disdain for intelligence that was discussed by the woman featured in this article.

          1. Not answering the question. What makes black people more likely to eschew the responsibilities of fatherhood and disdain intelligence?

              1. Which is caused by what?

                1. Devaluing of work ethic, devaluing of family units, elevation of vice as if it were a virtue. Much of it is caused by the state programs that incentivize the production of vice in place of virtue. If you subsidize single mothers, you get more single mothers. That’s not even open to dispute, it’s a logical consequence.

              2. Yep, much like the Irish immigrants in America in the early 1900’s. The period show The Knick just aired a great episode showcasing the sadly typical Irish immigrant behavior at the time.

                The difference is, of course, nobody gave the Irish government handouts, excused their behavior, or told them their failures were due to vague, invisible, unfalsifiable institutional oppression. No Irish “community leaders,” either.

                And lo: the Irish rose to the occasion, assimilating & making something of themselves. So successfully, in fact, that our only real remnants of the Irish social problems are relatively innocuous stereotypes like The Fighting Irish & jokes about Irish alcoholism.

          2. Yup. I once saw a young, black couple on the bust teaching their 3-year-old to say things like “Back, back, motherfucker!” and “Give me my shit!” They thought it was really funny. I thought, that kid’s going to be in prison or dead in fifteen years.

            1. A bit of a slippery slope argument, but I can’t say I disagree with predicted outcome.

            2. That’s the sort of thing you’d teach to a 3 YO parrot.

            3. I once saw a black woman catch her three year old drawing with crayons on the wall. When she found him, she said, “Do that again.” So he began to color on the wall again. She smacked his head against the wall and yelled at him for drawing on the wall.

              I know there is abuse in white families, but I have never seen a white parent so openly hurt their own kid. This was in public. She was utterly unashamed to set up the kid to abuse him (by telling him to draw on the wall again) or to hurt him so severely for what is really a minor thing.

              That stuck with me. I hope it isn’t common, but I think roughness in general is a cultural thing among lower-income blacks.

      2. The way to reduce economic inequalities is to stay in school,

        True as long as that racket exists. The real way to reduce them is to get rid of credentialism.

    3. The first comment in th thread called: reparations, that’ll fix everything.

      1. …called it

    4. Re: Tony,

      He distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary minorities

      A point that is illustrated by whacking an equine carcass many times over with a wooden rod.

      Fixing underlying social and economic inequities would seem to be the solution for any problem we’re talking about.

      So when certain persons disdain education and harass others for seeking it, the solution is to eat rich people?

      I also love how you mix together social and economic inequalities, as if one could come with a ruler and make measurements. You sound a lot like Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General.

    5. How can economic inequalities be reduced if it’s true that a significant factor in black culture is devaluing high performance and achievement?

      Is it not true that promoting, valuing, and celebrating high achieving black kids would automatically help reduce economic inequalities?

      How can a culture increase its economic performance when it is always in victim mode?

  19. The same tendencies exist in white culture — there, the solution is segregation (based on interest in education, not on race). There are enough honors students that they have their own classes and social network without feeling ostracized.

  20. When are we going to try policies that fix the underlying social inequities of minorities? When oh when will we finally start down this path?

    1. ~50 years ago. You can be forgiven for not noticing since it hasn’t made a bit of difference.

  21. One of my good friends is a black guy who grew up off Kinsman in the Cleveland hood. Of something like 12 kids in his peer group growing up, I think he said that three are alive and not in prison. His momma whipped his ass every time he spoke “black” in the house because she didn’t want him to go to prison. It worked.

    1. But…isn’t that weird? A priori there’d be no reason to think speech mannerisms would lead to criminality?especially to the stupid criminality that leads to being caught. It says certain things go together culturally, in ways that give justif’n to such things as victimless crime laws.

  22. Another thing: trashy black culture is the exact same thing as hillbilly pencil-dicked white trailer trash culture. Not a thing about it is different. Every problem with ghetto black culture, from loving drugs to being violent to being proud of being stupid and ignorant, is also a problem among white trash. The liberal-ass do-gooders don’t shed too many crocodile tears for the poor OC-popping hillbillies, because they have nothing but contempt for them. And rightly so. Ponder that on the tree of woe.

    1. The liberal-ass do-gooders don’t shed too many crocodile tears for the poor OC-popping hillbillies, because they have nothing but contempt for them.

      It’s because they’re “in the family”. That’s how it works.

      “Oh poor people, they’re put upon by society!”

      Same person, ten minutes later:

      “you know, if my damned uncle would get off his ass, quit smoking weed and look for a job, he wouldn’t have the problems he has.”

    2. The liberal-ass do-gooders don’t shed too many crocodile tears for the poor OC-popping hillbillies, because they have nothing but contempt for them.

      Ah, but you don’t understand, Warty. The liberal-ass do-gooders don’t have a patron-client relationship with the white trailer trash. Some of them even vote wrong. So fuck them.

  23. My girlfriend is a black woman who was born in Detroit and spent time in Jamaica with a family friend. After a year of primary school she returned to Detroit a superior student with a more worldly perspective, and promptly lost friends who felt she’d become snobby. She certainly wasn’t “acting white,” and it definitely illustrates a culture of contempt for academic advancement.

  24. I think light-skinned blacks that don’t have a negro dialect unless they choose to don’t have these issues. – Sen. Harry Reid, D – Nevada

  25. I suffered the same thing growing up in a Texican/Mexican dominated school system. Played basketball with neighborhood blacks and browns after school but never mixed in school. This is apparently the best kept secret in America, because it’s painfully obvious to anyone who went to a middle class school or worse: minority academic achievement is looked down upon unless you happen to be a hot chic or otherwise so damned popular nobody dares call you on it.

    Just another reason to support any policy that would add diversity in choice and techniques to K12 education.

    In case Tony read down this far: yes, “we” should lecture black people (and all other cultures that glorify damaging lifestyle choices) till the end of time, because ANYONE who has lived it knows “structural racism” has exactly zero to do with denigrating achievement, unless you’re referring to the soft racism of low expectations and endless excuse-making.

    My brown kids will speak Spanish and English properly and get an ass whooping for failing classes. That’s thinking globally and acting locally!

  26. If we’re talking about what black people value, I think all this brouhaha is about black kids valuing being cool more than school – not really devaluing school. I’ve gotten that I was “white” a lot but nobody ever said it was because I was studious – it had more to do with the fact that cool people and credible people that many blacks value have “swagger” which includes urban vernacular more than proper grammar – it includes loud, expressive and sometimes crude fashion statements more than conservative or “timeless” wear. It also includes – if we’re being honest with ourselves, group think over individual thought. So there’s a lot of taking sides. Me not taking sides with the young kids who would ruin the pool I supervised would call me white because I sided with my lifeguards and not them. Other blacks I’ve known, who tend to be in the “oreo” class have expressed similar sentiment. I’m hard pressed to find this issue about a contempt for academic advancement and more a commentary on how complicated black people make their identity. We value school but we value an ideal of “authenticity” that, in action, directly conflicts with how seemingly “educated” people conduct themselves.

  27. “However, the documentation of this has always rankled those who prefer to document black problems as due to institutional racism rather than cultural problems”

    Wait, is this Reason magazine? The online edition?

  28. Typo. “Why it is” s/b “Why is it”

  29. A message that would really help the “black community” would be to inspire them to take the same approach as the Irish did to the English in terms of writing, which is to demean them by using their language better than the do.

  30. It is kinda weird that African-Americans aren’t completely anti-Muslim since it was Islam/Muslim slave traders who originally went in and captured all of their ancestors. In fact quite the contrary, with African Americans pioneering Nation of Islam in the US. If anything, the caucasian societies gave them a better chance at a future than their daughters being enslaved by Boko Haram these days.

    1. I once had a military subordinate that joined the Nation of Islam. He would frequently lecture all of us white folks and tell us that blacks were going to kill all of us. According to him, the Nation of Islam teaches blacks that before the “white man” came to Africa, it was a paradise where every man was a king, and every woman a queen. It teaches that the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean is lined with the bones of millions of black slaves thrown overboard by their white captors. It teaches that all whites are inherently evil, and are the cause of all strife in the world. They were advocating the violent takeover of three southern states in order to form their own black nation here in the US.

      I once told him that he should shut the fuck up and thank whatever god he believed in that his ancestors were enslaved, because otherwise he’d be living in a 3rd-world shithole digging for grubs with a stick and running around with a bone in his nose and a plate in his lip. I was “counseled” for that statement, while the command refused to counsel him for belonging to an organization advocating the violent overthrow of government and takeover of three states. Their reasoning was that we couldn’t expect him to understand the UCMJ Article 94 (a)(2).

      Low expectations, then and now.

      1. It is noteworthy that 95% of the slave traffic went to Latin America. Slavery, though practiced, was always problematic in the United States.
        In regards to Nation of Islam teachings, I hope they have edited their teachings to note that the slave trade flourished in Africa before the Portuguese, Spanish, English, or French entered into the business. Muslim countries have been the last of nations to outlaw and prohibit slavery.

        1. I wonder where those slaves went?

  31. It is obvious that black nerds like Barack Obama and Ben Carson command enormous amount of respect. Black conservatives are stigmatized and a great amount of prejudice and ostracizing is expected.
    Maybe acting Asian might spur some students towards a better academic outcome.

  32. Anyone interested should read Taleeb starkes “The uncivil war: blacks vs niggers” about the self destructive culture in the African American community. Growing up in the 1950’s I remember when blacks tried to “act white” in dress, speech and behaviour. The black power movement, black pride movement and the entire liberal narrative blaming everything on slavery and victimhood, changed that and has resulted in today’s problems.

  33. Distressing to see you black kids talking themselves out of a good education… We need their talents and abilities… and many of us had to learn how to speak proper educated language.

    Hope this problem gets turned around.
    HB

  34. I am surprised that blacks consider studying to be “acting white”. In my ethnic group we chastise our kids for acting like whites if they don’t study or spend more time on sports than on education. Losing to white kids in math contests is considered embarrassing. But then, I live in the south, and perhaps northern whites have a greater focus on education.

  35. Ask President Poindexter.

  36. Was this article make by a white person?
    P.S I’m black and find this article to be dumb.

  37. Mr. Mcwhorter,
    You are spot on, articulate & very well read. Not many minds are able to grasp such concepts, as current prevailing collective conscious & regional ego’s will often deny progress on such matters indefinitely. It seems you have a clear grasp & a sound comprehension of the way in which societies interact according to (environmentally &/or regionally influenced) perceived peer pressures, norms, mores & taboos.

    After fervently studying the plight of human society throughout history, I’ve come to realize that Mother nature pushes us towards multicultural assimilation via a variety of “phenomena” that has works either by, filtering, purifying or purging the global gene pool. Or, by inducing us to hysteria or zealotry over some want, need, idea or the thought of gaining power over our neighbor. Many of these “phenomena” are effective today only because our genes evolved ahead of time to facilitate events which mother nature needs us to “react” to in order to produce a certain outcome.
    Hysterical ideas like, “the acting white theory is a myth” or “only whites are racist” are a direct result of mother natures intent & design. And are no different than declaring war on inanimate objects like, drugs or hunting down heretics due to religious beliefs. They are all the result of the way we evolved. And the only way to change things like this ourselves, sadly is through revolutionary ideas, inventions or force.

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