***This was originally published a few years ago, but a recent conversation with a very “convinced” Black conservative urged me to refresh and repost***
Weâ€™ve all heard the story before:
Black boy meets and falls in love with books, but anti-book Black classmates beat, berate, and ban him from all future block bbqâ€™s for properly conjugating verbs, eating fat-free mayonnaise, and generally acting â€œWhiteâ€.
Author Stuart Buck examined this phenomenon in Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegragration, an earnest attempt to understand the (worsening) academic progress of African-Americans in the years after schools were integrated. While I agree with many of the points madeâ€”especially the reference to the â€œsoft prejudice of low expectations from racist teachers who assumed blacks werenâ€™t capable and from liberals who coddled themâ€œâ€”this book ultimately disappoints for one simple reason: The title.
Let me explain.
Whether weâ€™re accepting the â€œtruthâ€ that Black men marry out almost three times as much as Black women (despite the fact that the actual numbersâ€”according to census stats, 3.7% of married Black American women and 8.4% of married Black American men had a non-Black spouseâ€”show that thereâ€™s really not much of a discrepancy), or passing the news that 50 percent of all black women in Washington, D.C. have active herpes (even though the oft-cited study actually claimed that 48 percent of the Black women tested had just been exposed to the herpes virusâ€”big, big difference), we have an annoying tendency to believe, recite, repeat, and spread chicken little statistical half-truths and scary campfire stories about ourselves regardless of how half-assed the â€œfactsâ€ happen to be, so, it doesnâ€™t surprise me when others start to believe, recite, repeat, and spread these facts as well.
Perhaps the most dangerous of these bullshit memes is â€œThe Danger of Acting Whiteâ€ idea, which basically states that high achieving Black children are routinely picked on by other Black children just because theyâ€™re high achieversâ€¦something that just doesnâ€™t f*cking happen.
Yup, you read that correctly. It (high achieving Black children getting routinely picked on by other Black children just because theyâ€™re high achievers) doesnâ€™t f*cking happenâ€¦at least not in the way itâ€™s usually thought to, and hereâ€™s three reasons why.
***Before I continue, I just want to say that I do realize that there have been Black kids picked on and beat up (and worse) by other Black kids just because they happened to be good students. Iâ€™m also not attempting to minimize the very real fact that a disturbing sense of intellectual and academic apathy exists among far too many of us. All Iâ€™m saying is that this (Black kids getting picked on by other Blacks just because theyâ€™re smart) doesnâ€™t happen as often as weâ€™re lead to believe***
1. “Akeelah and the Bee”
One of the most ridiculously realistic movie scenes I’ve ever seen happens an hour or so into this movie. Burgeoning spelling bee champ Akeelah gets clowned and dismissed by her brother, Namond Brice, who also assumes that the neighborhood dopeboy he hopes to work for would find Akeelahâ€™s spelling bee competition as simple and stupid as he does. Instead, the dopeboy gives Akeelah encouragement, tells Akeelah about the poems he used to write, and even orders Namond to help his little sister study.
This scene is ridiculous because the neighborhood dopeboy is played by The Rubberband Man, a guy who screams â€œthugâ€ about as loudly as Donnie McClurkin screams â€œstraight.â€ But, itâ€™s realistic because this actually does happen. As anyone whoâ€™s actually lived in or taught at an inner-city school district will tell you, the school and neighborhood thugs are usually either indifferent towards or encouraging of kids that seem to have a bit of â€œtalent,â€ whether itâ€™s academic or athletic (as long as they donâ€™t snitch, of course).
2. Smart kids donâ€™t get picked on just because theyâ€™re smart, butâ€¦
â€¦nerdy kids do, and, this happens everywhere, not just in the inner-city. Regardless of their socioeconomic or racial background, nerds get teased because, well, theyâ€™re nerds, and socially awkward kids are easy targets.
I know this seems obvious, but it just annoys me when people act as if nerdy kids are â€œallowedâ€ to be nerds everywhere else except the hood. Iâ€™m amazed at how easily weâ€™ve allowed this context-less meme to spread, especially since it basically calls us a nation full of crabs. Shit, thereâ€™s a reason “Revenge of the Nerds” is such a cult-classic. Itâ€™s a vicarious revenge fantasy for nerds, their opportunity to reverse the sh*t that happens to nerds everywhere, and itâ€™s filled with gratuitous boob shots.
Thatâ€™s actually two reasons, but you get my point.
3. Some Black people actually do act â€œWhiteâ€â€¦and they do deserve to be picked on
By acting â€œWhiteâ€ Iâ€™m not referring to using proper English, listening to Weezer instead of Weezy, or even dating outside of your race. But, there are people who do their absolute best to rid themselves of any apparent trace of Black culture, and those people deserve to be admonished.
I wonâ€™t go into too much detail about how exactly â€œdoing your absolute best to rid yourself of any trace of black cultureâ€ is defined, but I will say that its definition is somewhat similar to pornâ€™s: You know it when you see it.
Basically, just think of any character Rashida Jones has ever played in any movie.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)