Monday, March 19, 2007

Acting White: vs. Acting Black

No, My Son Doesn't 'Act Black.' There's No Such Thing. - Washington Post

My eleven-year old son came home a few months back and said he got into a slight ‘altercation’ with a White kid in his sixth-grade class. I know all the boys by name, as they form a CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) basketball team, and could not think which boy my son would get ‘sideways’ with, to cause such a big deal. It turned out to be the coach’s son, and his sin was in saying my son was trying to ‘act Black’.

Of course I immediately responded by saying to my son, ‘you ARE Black! what’s he talking about?’. After some discussion it seems that the coach’s son was not impressed with my son’s attempt to act like a kid from the ‘hood’. Something about his words and attitude marked my boy as a pretender and his teammate, who happened to be the team captain, felt no restraint in setting the record straight.

At this point my sixteen-year old daughter chimes in that it sounds like her brother was trying to act like he was from the ghetto and got busted. She went on to say that she was often accused of acting white by the Black kids in her school, and her response is always the same, ‘it’s not acting White to act like you have some sense’. So now, beyond all argument, I have proof for the naysayers that the accusations of acting White (and Black) do indeed exist. But I am puzzled.

I always wondered how someone of one race could act like a person of another race. Does not the mere accusation errantly gift ownership of behaviors to a race, when all behaviors are replicas or interpretations of something that someone else previously accomplished? To give license to a group for a particular behavior, raises the ante for assimilation, since the person acquiring the behavior must, in addition, pay a royalty in the form of feeling or looking inferior for their perceived lack of originality.

So I conclude, while the existence of accusations is true, the ability to act like another race, via assimilating the behaviors of others, is false. Acting White, or Black, is a myth, and exposing it as such is a just cause for making sure everyone has equal opportunity and responsibility to do the ‘right’ thing(s).

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

Great piece Dr. Collier.

Anonymous said...

It might be a myth but a lot of people seem to believe in this one. Its really harmful when being intelligent, going to school, and obeying the law are though to be 'acting White'. It makes you feel like you have to proove yourself all the time and you don't fit in with anyone. I read in an article a while ago that Black college students usually have fewer friends than White students because apparently they didn't fit in with either group.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea how old this is, or if dr. collier is still alive,but i thought( considering my encounters with such behavior, as your son has)that i should. I agree in every way. There is no such thing as acting black or white. I too am a young black pupil that chooses to use proper english and behave properly, and becouse i do so, i am constanly accused of "ACTING WHITE". I feel very strongly about this as well. I even wrote a letter to the editor on this specific topic. It comforts me to see that i am not the only person brave enough to post it. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I'm a middle class white kid who has grown up in the inner-city for most of my life in what most would consider 'the hood' or 'the ghetto'. Growing up in the inner-city in predominantly African-American neighborhoods has taught me a lot about life and society and also I like to think has shaped me to become a great person. I have gotten to experience what most white people don't have the chance to, but, because of this I have been acused of 'acting black' which i agree is a total myth. Believing there is such a thing as 'acting black/white' is giving into stereotypes and what society tells you. I try to explain to all types of people that there is no such thing; some agree with me, but most don't and are just ignorant in my eyes. I mean how can you act a color, creed, race or culture; that's just giving into the 'isms and 'schisms of society. But anyway great article Dr. Collier and we need more articles written like yours.

*If you believe in this article and you hear someone talking about 'acting black/white' you should explain to them and make it a movement to get rid of the myth*

Maya B. said...

I am a Seventeen Years Old and peers as well as family often accus me of “Acting White” . Just because I choice to listen to music other than rap or because I speak Proper English can not determine what race I am (or trying to act like) . At the sametime I am accused of (Acting Black) because I will say what ever I feel (Respectfully) and because I will stand up for what I believe in. Society is so screwed up . It's a shame because I know it will always be like this.