#AskABlackChick: How Are Black People Influenced By The Idea of “Acting White”

Anonymous Asks:

#askablackchick

The actual question was quite long but very necessary. Here is the unedited question:

“This question is more generalized towards the black population. I have heard and seen many times in society that black people are accepted more when they act “white”. I’ve learned that this means they appear to be educated, dress in clothes that don’t have “gangster” style to them, and speak eloquently. What is so confusing though is it seems like black people are shoved into two categories. You’re either a black person who acts “white”, or you’re a black person like you see in the movies where if you are a man you are violent and if you are a woman you are loud and opinionated. So this leads to five thousand questions… Are you aware of this view? Does it effect you personally? Do you feel it has an impact on your race as a , whole? Does “acting white” have a negative influence, a positive one, or is it simply just being a normal human being who has had the same education as thousands of other human beings?”

This question hit home for me because I have always been told by white and black people alike that I act white. It can be the way I carry myself, my attitude, or the way I speak; it is all relative to acting white and seen as a compliment. It is incredibly infuriating. Here’s the community’s thoughts:

Diana says:

I think society has adopted an erroneous way of defining being educated. I’m African and I have seen people living in huts made out of mud that speak eloquently in their dialect. Education is not inherently Caucasian; there are many ways of being ‘educated’ as there are thousands of existing cultures in the world, and each one filled with unique concepts of education.

I’m African and I have seen people living in huts made out of mud that speak eloquently in their dialect. 

It may be true that the media has a rather poor way of categorizing Black people and it might have affected me in the past. I might have been tempted to believe that I needed to act ‘white’ to be accepted in their circles but to be honest, I’ve never been good at faking who I am just to make someone accept me. Bottom line is that those who truly want to know what people from another race are all about will make the effort to actually connect with real people belonging to the specific race and will end up realizing that they can find a vast diversity of personalities in just one race. I’m black and an introvert with a gentle voice and an aversion for loud noises.

Eden says:

As someone who used to be called an “Oreo” and told that I acted “white” I do understand your frustration firsthand. I grew up in the suburbs, in a two parent household where both parents were college educated; the average family. Not once did my parents try to undermine my identity as a black girl but rather they taught me to embrace my culture and to do so with grace and class. In our household, that never correlated it to “acting white” or turning our backs on the black Community.

I believe that as a race, we should stop associating things like dressing properly and speaking well with white culture and associating negative traits such as violence and aggressiveness with black culture. As of today more than 4.5 million African Americans hold a four year college degree. It would be unreasonable to assume that these people are acting “white” simply because they choose to educate themselves.

As of today more than 4.5 million African Americans hold a four year college degree. It would be unreasonable to assume that these people are acting “white” simply because they choose to educate themselves. 

As a race, we should eliminate self- harming phrases such as “acting white” and “bougie”. Even if it’s meant as an insult to the person being referred to, we really end up insulting ourselves as a whole. By designating these positive traits to white culture, we are indirectly accepting that dressing in a “gangster” style, being violent, being uneducated, and being loud and opinionated are all part of black culture.

Black women have become the most educated race AND gender group, with over 2.6 million women that have a Bachelor degrees or higher 

The media does play a huge role in this delusional thinking, often portraying black people in a negative light. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t let the media define who we are as a people. Black women have become the most educated race AND gender group, with over 2.6 million women that have a Bachelor degrees or higher. 7 out 10 black men live with their children, and there are 59% more black men in post-secondary education than in jail.

As a race, we should eliminate self- harming phrases such as “acting white” and “bougie” 

There are millions of black people everyday overcoming the stereotypes set before them and still embracing their culture.

Jessica-Brittney says:

This is a wonderful question and has a million and one responses I’m sure, but I’ll respond from my own experience. Black people are definitely aware of this perception. I, for a long time, was considered a black girl that is actually “white.” I spoke “properly,” I listened to “white” music, and therefore was not deemed black enough. But this is bullshit. Blackness is not defined by the music I listen to or the way I speak. It is a part of my experience, but I am black because I was brought into this world with more melanin within my body and the story of a beautiful people.

Blackness is not defined by the music I listen to or the way I speak. 

I will say this, anything that forces you to act anything other than yourself to lead you to some type of acceptance is negative. Because it means that you yourself are not enough. It has definitely impacted my people. I dream of the day where every Black person wakes up feeling empowered and beautiful because of who they are, because that is currently, certainly, not the case.

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2 comments

  1. I’m aware of this view. Yes, it impacts me personally. It impacts the race because it divides us. I believe my ability to converse well has a positive impact on me, my family, and community. I can be a voice for the those who cannot speak. Only my family and close friends tease me about it. I don’t consider it acting white either. I’m just being me. I can definitely relate to this piece though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with the all the commenters.

    I actually use the term “acting white” to tease my sister when she doesn’t discipline her son or when someone of color walks out in the street without looking or stares or doesn’t say excuse me. It’s not a term of endearment at all.

    Like

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