Acting White is the New Black
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
What is acting white? Or, better yet, what is acting black?
Early generations of African-Americans were determined to become educated in a foreign land that worked so hard to keep them uninformed. They put their lives on the line to learn to read and write to surpass the system that kept them down. Yet today, with all of the freedom in the world, our people choose to walk in ignorance. We choose to mispronounce words and forgo proper grammar and teach our children to do the same. And when anyone pushes against this norm, we tell them they are “acting White.”
It has always amazed me that a person could be ostracized for simply speaking a language in its intended manner or choosing to wear Abercrombie and Fitch over Baby Phat. Why don’t we strive to speak the most grammatically sound English possible? Why not seek to be the most cultured and diverse group of people? Why stay confined within the walls of a ghetto mentality, striving to be less than the standard of superiority?
Being successful in this world requires solid communication skills, visible intellect and regard for physical appearance. At no point in time is the use of Ebonics, also known as self-imposed retardation, acceptable. Subject-verb agreement exists for a reason. Use it. I be doin’ dis and she be doin’ dat is a “dialect” that screams uneducated. Where has uneducated every gotten anyone? To the NBA? Sure, and then bankruptcy court because poor verbal communication skills barely get you a job at McDonald’s, less known a corporate office position. There are so many bright, young black men and women whose behavior reflects the opposite. Instead of making our intellectual value known, we hide behind the self-fulfilled stereotypes imposed on us by mainstream media. We have accepted and, sadly, embraced looking dumb—walking around looking down, mumbling words. Good posture, chin up and eye contact shows confidence…Confidence in your ability to perform.
Would The Cosby Show be an iconic American (not just African-American) television show if Claire was a gum-popping, head-swirling baby mama? Absolutely, not. President Obama did not become the first of his kind “acting black” either. Those who have experienced real, lasting success measure their blackness against standards of excellence. In this world where the global minority rules, some may call it “acting White.” If that is the case, acting White should be the new black. We cannot continue to reduce ourselves to what we see and hear from the likes of Gucci Mane, a grown man with an ice cream cone tattooed on his face.
It can be a little painful, at times, to feel alienated by your own on the basis of doing little things right that go a long way. But, what should be even more painful is spitting on the blood, sweat and tears of pride our forefathers shed to make this country and this world what they are today. If active reverence means one (maybe two) black friends at work, so be it. If it means spending less time around family members who complain you think you’re better than them, who cares.
Your blackness is not defined by mainstream society or, most importantly, mentally captive black women, boys, girls and men. If acting white means acting like a person with high standards and lofty expectations, tap dance your way to the bank. Shuck and jive, shuck and jive…
Has anyone ever told you that you were “acting white?” What were you doing that was so “white?”