The racial desegregation of schools in America prompted immediate action—a story of protests and violence, white flight, and painful new beginnings—as the forging of our contemporary educational system began. More than half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, questions about how students of all races can excel in desegregated environments remain a concern for parents and teachers alike.
For black children in particular, the term “acting white” has been used since to refer to classmates who mind their schoolwork. The removal of black schools managed by black communities and the colorblind recognition of the value of education left a strange legacy, and the term is a peculiar reminder of how separation becomes a comforting recourse even when the goal is integration.
Stuart Buck’s Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation addresses these unintended consequences of desegregating schools. Writing for The New Republic, John McWhorter said: “Stuart Buck at last brings together all of the relevant evidence and puts paid to two myths. The first is that the ‘acting white’ charge is a fiction or just pointless marginal static. The other slain myth, equally important, is that black kids reject school as alien out of some sort of ingrained stupidity; the fear of this conclusion lies at the root of the studious dismissal of the issue by so many black thinkers concerned about black children.” McWhorter went on to further discuss the book and the problems it raises with Richard Thompson Ford for Bloggingheads.tv. Check out their discussion and read Buck’s book for his conclusive take on how we can improve our educational system with knowledge and awareness of the cultural impact that desegregation left.