This months issue of The Atlantic cites an empirical study testing the old hypothesis that minority students who achieve high grades are accused of "acting white." Harvard researchers Ronald G. Fryer, Jr., and Paul Torelli have found that there is a clear negative correlation between academic achievement and popularity among black and Hispanic teenagers. The problem is especially noticeable among the latter: "popularity begins to decline at a GPA of 2.5 (C+), and a Hispanic student with a 4.0 average is less popular among other Hispanics than one with a 1.0." Interestingly, though, these results only seem to hold true in racially integrated schools; in predominantly black and Hispanic schools the stigma is far less noticeable.
Unless this problem can be dealt with effectively, all the affirmative action programs in the world will fail to bring equality for members of these groups. Indeed, inasmuch as affirmative action serves to reward underachievement by lowering expectations for blacks and Hispanics, it will ultimately only make things worse.