Caring About Learning = "Acting White"

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Tiffany Pridgen has a nice post about the tendency among some black kids to see being smart or caring about learning as a "white" trait that "real" black kids shouldn't have anything to do with. This is one of the more insidious anti-black narratives within black culture, because it masquerades itself as anti-white racism (because it sees a supposedly white characteristic as bad) while actually directing its harm toward blacks. It's really sad when it keeps smart kids from doing well in school.

Black conservatives have been quick to recognize this problem. See here for my summary of some of what they say about it. Liberals on race issues have tended to downplay this phenomenon. It amazes me that so many people will insist that something like this can't be part of the explanation for why black kids don't do as well on SATs and don't have as good grades. Just read some reviews of John McWhorter's books by liberals on race issues to see people denying that there's any significant peer pressure of this sort. I can't help but think that they're assuming such an admission would mean that white racism isn't the immediate cause of every problem within the black community, which would then undermine one of the reasons for affirmative action. But almost every black person I've talked to who cared about learning and grades before college has told me that the phenomenon is real and that it does lead kids to do less well.

There will surely be differences of opinion over how much of the SAT and grade gap is explained just by this. I myself don't think it's the only cause. For one thing, affirmative action itself is one further explanation, since it lessens the need for black kids to do as well if they want to get into a good college, and only the best students are doing well purely for the sake of doing well. But the traditional liberal "white racism" explanation for the racial grade/SAT gap is compatible with this as an additional contributing factor, so it's kind of lame to dismiss it out of a desire to maintain support for affirmative action.

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