The “Acting White” Myth

Ivory Toldson disputes the idea that “black students purposefully underachieve because they attribute being smart to ‘acting white'”:

[T]he Acting White Theory for black education is more fodder for cultural critics than it is a construct that will advance any meaningful solutions for academic achievement gaps. In many ways, white males are the most forthright about being apathetic toward educational values, which is likely attributed to having less of a need for impression management because of having no stereotype threat. For black people, the context of “acting white” could be primarily a function of satire and sarcasm, and have more to do with styles of dress, communication nuances, music preferences and a particular swagger that is independent of intellectual aptitude.

The problem with the Acting White Theory is that it promotes the misconception that black students underachieve because of their corrupted attitudes. Meanwhile, many black students are relegated to under-resourced schools, and they lack motivation because of low expectations from teachers and school leaders, unfair discipline and fewer opportunities for academic enrichment.