In the United States, acting white is a pejorative term for white cultural appropriation usually applied to African Americans, which refers to a person's perceived betrayal of their culture by assuming the social expectations of white society. Success in education in particular (depending on one's cultural background) can be seen as a form of selling out by being disloyal to one's culture. The term is controversial, and its precise meaning is hard to define. Nevertheless, the idea that minority students suffer from the negative prejudices of their ethnic peers is currently accepted as generally true in much of the American media—as expressed in articles in The New York Times, Time magazine, and The Wall Street Journal—and in American society.
History of usage 
The phrase was coined by Signithia Fordham and first popularized in her 1986 study, Black Students' School Success: Coping with the "Burden of 'Acting White.'" The question of whether or not acting white attitudes really exist has been debated back and forth in academic literature. The term rose to further media prominence when Bill Cosby used it in a famous May 2004 speech. Black people who are accused of acting white are sometimes referred to as Black Anglo-Saxons, a term coined by comedian Paul Mooney. The 2008 election of Barack Obama as President of the United States created a public discussion that the acting white attitude may be waning.
Case studies and research 
Not all scholars define acting white in precisely the same way. However, most definitions include a reference to situations where some minority adolescents ridicule their minority peers for engaging in behaviors perceived to be characteristic of whites. "White behavior" as such is highly correlated with high grades in school, which is the effect that researchers focus on, but the two attributes are distinct.
In 1986, Signithia Fordham co-authored with Nigerian sociologist John Ogbu a study that concluded that high-performing African American students in a Washington, D.C., high school borrowed from hegemonic white culture as part of a strategy for achievement, while struggling to maintain a black identity. Ogbu made a related claim in his 2003 book, Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement, concluding that black students' own cultural attitudes hindered academic achievement and that these attitudes are too often neglected. However, as Ogbu made clear in his seminal work Minority Education and Caste (1978), school disengagement among caste-like minorities occurs because of the glass ceiling placed by white society on the job-success of their parents and others in their communities. He reasoned that non-whites "failed to observe the link between educational achievement and access to jobs."
Though the study's conclusion gained a popular foothold and has been espoused by figures such as Bill Cosby in his famous May 2004 speech, a later study challenged its validity. In 2003, Karolyn Tyson, a sociologist, and William Darity, Jr., an economist, both at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, directed an 18-month study at 11 North Carolinian schools. The study concluded that white and black students have essentially the same attitudes about scholastic achievement; students in both groups want to succeed in school and show higher levels of self-esteem when they do better in school. They compared attitudes identified as acting white to the normal adolescent pains experienced in John Hughes' movies.
Academics Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig published a report in 1997 finding that blacks do not face any stronger social pressures for succeeding in school than whites, and that they have no greater feelings of alienation towards education in general either. They noted anecdotal and ethnographic research confirming that minority students hold these views, but they concluded that these are not inherently generalizable and do not substantially affect student behavior in the classroom. They labeled the issue "something of a distraction" from what they saw as more important educational reforms.
Stuart Buck, a lawyer, wrote Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation in 2010, published by Yale University Press. He argued that traditionally segregated black schools featured teachers, counselors, and others of the same race as the student population of the schools, who in many cases became mentors to the students. However, the integration of schools since the mid- to late-20th century may have caused schools to appear to some black students to be controlled or dominated by whites. Consequently, a black student trying to achieve high educational success may be seen primarily as trying to make him or herself appear superior to others.
A 2006 study titled An Empirical Analysis of "Acting White" by Roland G. Fryer, Jr., at Harvard University and Paul Torelli suggested that the phenomenon probably had little to no effect on students achieving at average levels, but might explain a significant role in the disparities between black and white students at high achievement levels. Fryer has also written that, in contrast to Fordham and Ogbu's theory, "acting white" prejudices are actually more common the more integrated the school, with historically black schools free of any effects. He found that groups such as Italian immigrants in Boston’s West End and the Maori of New Zealand display similar behaviors. He concluded, "There is necessarily a trade-off between doing well and rejection by your peers when you come from a traditionally low-achieving group, especially when that group comes into contact with more outsiders."
A fundamental drawback of much of the research so far is that the people studied have been asked to rate their own popularity in the eyes of others, which naturally brings those scores into question. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. has remarked, "Asking teenagers whether they’re popular is like asking them if they’re having sex."
Political observer John McWhorter has commented, "[t]eenagers have a variety of identities open to them for trying on anti-Establishment postures. White kids can be stoners or goths. Black kids can be 'nonwhite'." He interpreted those kids as black "nerds". He stated that the acting white attitude developed as the creation of an "other" among newly integrated African-American kids.
In their aforementioned study, Karolyn Tyson and William Darity, Jr., stated that school staff and faculty who hold racist attitudes about the ability of black students use the attitude as a cover for disparities in student performance. Shelby Steele wrote in The Content of Our Character that what he identified as middle class black values are falsely viewed by the majority of blacks as "white" while they are actually colorblind. He argued that this attitude is separate from the natural reaction of young blacks in poverty.
New York University School of Law professor Kenji Yoshino wrote in his 2006 book Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights criticizing what he sees as social pressures to conform to mainstream white culture. He stated that this constitutes a violation of African Americans' civil rights and that they should be able to uphold their own social distinctions. He also stated that they should be able to freely choose to identify with white culture if they wish. Anne Arnett Ferguson, Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies and Women's Studies at Smith College, has written that white culture "ruthlessly excludes African American cultural modes as relevant and meaningful". She highlighted the insistence in schools of standard English over Black Vernacular English as an example.
In African American folklore, the sea crab ranks among the dumbest of creatures who also offers a valuable lesson. When you catch a bucket or a basketful, you never have to put a lid on because when one of the creatures tries to get out, the others will just pull it back in. Some of our fellow human beings aren't much smarter than that. When they see you working hard to achieve your dreams, they'll make fun of you just for trying.
Accusations of "acting white" 
Barack Obama 
Obama's presidential victory in the 2008 election and public image have started a public debate about whether or not the stigma of 'acting white' will go away in the future. Commentators John McWhorter and Stephen J. Dubner have stated that it might. Yahanna of the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge, considered to be a black supremacist organization, did not consider Obama to be black but "African of white descent" and advised African-Americans not to vote for him.
Obama himself vehemently criticized the concept in his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, arguing that "children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”
See also 
- “Acting White”. By Roland G. Fryer, Jr. Education Next, Winter 2006 (vol. 6, no. 1). Accessed August 10, 2009.
- Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig. "Weighing the "Burden of 'Acting White'": Are There Race Differences in Attitudes toward Education?". Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Vol. 16, No. 2 (Spring, 1997), pp. 256–78.
- The Origin of ‘Acting White’. By Sheldon Johnson, University of Michigan School of Education - Equity Project Published November 5, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2008.
- Tough, Paul (December 12, 2004). ""Acting White" Myth, The". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- "Hollywood". Afro-punk. August 1, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- Stephen J. Dubner (November 7, 2008). "Will There Be an “Acting Obama” Effect?". The New York Times: Freakonomics. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- John McWhorter (November 9, 2008). "Revenge of the Black Nerd". New York Daily News. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- Roland G. Fryer, Jr. and Paul Torelli. "An Empirical Analysis of 'Acting White'". National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 11334. Published May 2005. Accessed August 10, 2009.
- Carter, Prudence (2005). Keepin' It Real: School Success Beyond Black and White. Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 29. ISBN 0-19-516862-3.
- Rod Dreher (May 18, 2010). "'Acting White': Stuart Buck interview". Beliefnet.com. Archived from the original on 20 July 2010. Retrieved June 28, 2010.
- Kenji Yoshino (2006). Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. Random House. ISBN 978-0-375-50820-2.
- Ferguson, Ann Arnett (2001). Bad boys: public schools in the making of black masculinity. University of Michigan Press. pp. 204–205. ISBN 978-0-472-08849-2.
- Clarence Page (September 27, 2004). "Essay: Acting White". News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- "Report: Jesse Jackson Says Barack Obama "Acting White" in Case of Six Blacks Accused in Assault Case". Fox News. September 19, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- Sprengelmeyer, M.E (June 25, 2008). "Nader: Obama trying to "talk white"". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
- Peisner, David (June 11, 2009). "Why White Supremacists Support Barack Obama". Esquire. Archived from the original on 9 July 2010. Retrieved June 29, 2010.
- "Facing Identity Conflicts, Black Students Fall Behind". National Public Radio. Recorded November 1, 2009.
- "The Price of Acting White". By Richard Morin. The Washington Post. June 5, 2005.
- "Study: ‘Acting White’ Accusation". By David Pluviose. Diverse. April 5, 2006.
- "Collective Identity and the Burden of “Acting White” in Black History, Community, and Education ". By John U. Ogbu. Urban Review, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp. 1–35. March 2004.