Keepin' It Real: School Success beyond Black and White

Keepin' It Real: School Success beyond Black and White

Keepin' It Real: School Success beyond Black and White

Keepin' It Real: School Success beyond Black and White

Synopsis

Why are so many African American and Latino students performing less well than their Asian and White peers in classes and on exams? Researchers have argued that African American and Latino students who rebel against "acting white" doom themselves to lower levels of scholastic, economic, and social achievement. In Keepin' It Real: School Success beyond Black and White, Prudence Carter turns the conventional wisdom on its head arguing that what is needed is a broader recognition of the unique cultural styles and practices that non-white students bring to the classroom. Based on extensive interviews and surveys of students in New York, she demonstrates that the most successful negotiators of our school systems are the multicultural navigators, culturally savvy teens who draw from multiple traditions, whether it be knowledge of hip hop or of classical music, to achieve their high ambitions. Keepin' it Real refutes the common wisdom about teenage behavior and racial difference, and shows how intercultural communication, rather than assimilation, can help close the black-white gap.

Excerpt

It has become fashionable these days to assert that many African American and second-generation Latino students reject academic excellence because they perceive it as “acting white.” The expression is an old one, originating in an era of American history when former slaves and some freed Blacks used “acting white” to characterize those group members who either resisted affiliation with the slave experience or passed as White in exchange for high status and success (Fordham 1996). The idea’s currency increased in the mid-1900s as the Black middle class grew and as poor Blacks viewed the middle class and wealthy as “sell-outs” (Frazier 1957). In this contemporary era, the “acting white” moniker still has not lost its resonance. As the argument goes, Black and Latino youth have chosen to define their identities in opposition to whiteness by refusing to speak standard English, do their schoolwork, earn high marks, or fully engage in school because they do not want to be seen as embracing behaviors that they label as “acting white” (Fordham and Ogbu 1986; Lewin 2000; McWhorter 2001; Gates 2004).

And yet, over the years as I have presented talks in numerous forums . . .

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