So, this whole ‘acting white’ thing has been in the news again. The theory started in the 1980s that African-American youth equate academic success or high achievement with quote-unquote “acting white”
Howard University professor, Dr. Ivory Toldson, recently published a paper arguing that this “acting white” theory was hollow or not supported by findings or fact.
Now I know some of you might be thinking ‘well I do know or have heard some children taunt their studious peers for “acting white”
Many of us likely have, but the point of the study is not to suggest this doesn’t happen, but to show that African-American children have a much healthier attitude toward academic achievement than is commonly reported.
Toldson studied the numbers from a CBS survey of over 1,000 high school students of various racial backgrounds on their opinions about smart students and being smart.
Now check this out; black males, more so than any other group ―white males and females included ―were the most likely to consider such high-achieving students as “cool”.
Toldson also shows that black females were the most likely to take pride in doing well in school, while white males were the most likely to be “embarrassed” by strong academic performance.
So what does this mean? Well, Chuck D of Public Enemy probably put it best a few years back when he offered, “Don’t believe the Hype“.
You see it’s unfortunately far too easy for us as a community to buy into myths that are not really based in truth. We then make them worse by spreading them until our children are running around repeating them like they’re a proven fact.
And then, most dangerous of all, once we hear it a few times, we internalize these false notions. Once we do, we’ve created a monster that now acts and looks real and does a lot of damage to our community and children despite the fact that it’s just a figment of our imagination.
Now to be clear, I’m not, and neither are these findings suggesting our children don’t accuse their peers of “acting white.” Toldson acknowledges such labeling is there, but these results show they are more likely the result of styles of dress, speech patterns and musical tastes than of academic achievement.
This is important to recognize since academic achievement is likely the most important indicator of future success…And if we perpetuate false myths among our children, or allow them to believe in them, then we shouldn’t sit around whining about “what’s wrong with these kids today” or wondering why they’re not doing well.
I’ll leave you with this from President John F. Kennedy:
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. “