Acting White

Acting white, also known as “fear of acting white,” “burden of acting white,” “oppositional culture,” and “the cultural ecology model,” was coined by the anthropologists Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu in 1986. Often credited to the latter scholar, the theory emerged from research among black American high school students in Washington, D.C. Under its original constellation, Fordham and Ogbu argued that black students were ambivalent about or sometimes rejected high academic achievement because success in school was identified as a white domain. In an attempt to remain connected to their racial peers, black youth avoided being perceived as “acting white.” Despite the theories popular in American culture, however, there is little empirical evidence to prove that black youth disengage from school and that their ...

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