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The Perils of "Acting White"

This month’s 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.

Discussions - 8 Comments

John does an excellent job of summarizing this! This has been my perception as well. Thanks.

Well, let’s be logical here. If this stigma is a product of desegregation (in that the stigma decreases in mostly black schools), AND IF the stigma is the cause of black underachievement, then shouldn’t black achievement be higher in all- or mostly-black schools (where the stigma doesn’t force bright students to dumb themselves down)?

And yet, black achievement is somewhat improved by desegregated school settings. For instance:

The effects of segregation on African American high school seniors’ academic achievement. Mickelson RA, Heath D

As I’ve said before, all this research is a fig leaf to cover the failures of our schools and the African-American community. Instead of making excuses (e.g., it’s the stigma, it’s the poverty, it’s the violence), set the bar high and REWARD good performance. Students tend to rise to a teacher’s expectations.

Moreover, I wonder if this isn’t also true for whites. How "popular" are nerds? Hell, the folks who post here, white or black, ought to understand that intelligence breeds resentment.

Moreover, I wonder if this isn’t also true for whites. How "popular" are nerds? Hell, the folks who post here, white or black, ought to understand that intelligence breeds resentment.

Of course, "nerds" are seldom popular, but not all the smart kids are nerds--nor are all of the nerds I’ve encountered particularly bright. Granted, mine is a somewhat unusual situation, since I attended a parochial high school (albeit one with a fairly good cross-section of working-class, middle-class, and wealthy students), but it contradicts the assertion that "intelligence breeds resentment." I would say that most of the really popular students were also academic over-achievers. Of course, being involved in varsity sports was the surest way to popularity, but among the athletes the ones who got higher grades tended to be the more popular.

Any student, minority or otherwise, that predicates his learning ability on his popularity, is only shortchanging him/herself. I believe the real problem is the co-mingling of boys and girls in the academic environment. In schools where girls and boys are kept separate, popularity is not as important, since there is no competition for having a girl friend or boyfriend. I attended an all-male, catholic high school, and was never aware of problems with popularity. I do see this as a problem for my daughter, who attends a public school with both boys and girls.

Two points: (1) In response to Dain, I know that my most intelligent comments tend to cause the most resentment on this blog, (2) As some of the comments have suggested, this may have less to do with ethnicity than it has with the presence of an "outgroup," since many girls tend to dumb-down in order to maximize their attractivenenss to boys.

In fact, white boys also dumb down to be more accepted by their peers, as well.

Perhaps the problem is white boys! If we remove them from the scene, everyone seems to improve!

Maybe we should remove all of the Fung’s of the world, for they are of no service.

It personally makes me very mad about this. Popularity should only deal with how well you are liked for the person you are. This article is so true though. But still,grades shouldn't matter and neither should race. Black is just a skin color just as white, red, yellow, badge, or whatever. As long as you are easy to get along with, you should be popular because those people that others call geeks or nerds will probably be doctors that may save your life. Think about it.

Oh, and as for frank reyes, i understand that you tink that but dude, like seriously, i couldn't stand it. Im a chick and most of my friends are dudes because i can't hardly stand the girls. And also, once you get out into the real world, how do you expect chicks and dudes to get along like they supposed to when they are never around guys? In school, the teachers try to teach you how guys and girls are supposed to act around eachother. Part of the problem is that there isn't enough of that.

And if you haven't noticed, most of the kids who have problems in school have problems at home. A lot of them at my school tend to be popular because they are understanding and easy to get along with because they have experienced some of the toughest shit u could imagine. But then again, there are a lot of popular people just becase tgey are good in sports. At my school, intelligence in school has nothing to do with popularity. It's mainly the common sense people and the street wise people who are popular because they can really teach you wat u really need to learn how to survive out in the real world. in other words, popularity varies throughout different types of people. I have to admit that the part of ohio i live in, the druggies are the most popular.

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