Acting White Analysis

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The wealthy and privileged receiving preferential treatment in the education system was supposed to end long ago in the 1950’s. Prudence Carter, in her book Keepin’ It Real: School Success Beyond Black and White shows that the great inequality still exists. She observes the relationships between gender, ethnicity, and culture as it applies to a group of low income students in Yonkers, New York. Carter’s research reveals that the work of reaching equality in education is far from finished.
One issue Carter tackles is the term “acting white.” “Acting white” is a phrase that is understood to reject standard educational values, but in reality it refers to a cultural barrier that exists in schools. The term “acting white” has been used for years,
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TO understand this, Carter characterizes multicultural students in three categories: cultural mainstreamers, noncompliant believers, and cultural straddlers. Each one of these groups views the relationship between dominant and nondominant culture differently. First, cultural mainstreamers can be best described as assimilating into the dominant culture. They are characterized as not only adopting the dominant culture’s academic ideals, but also other aspects like its dress, speech, and habits. Noncompliant believers are the opposite, choosing to reject the dominant culture in favor of their own nondominant culture. Often this leads them into direct conflict with the dominant culture. Cultural straddlers fall in the middle; they walk the line between their nondominant culture and the dominant culture. Frequently these individuals must choose which cultural codes to use at different times. Each of these groups can be compared by how they value their education. To do this Carter observed how students from all three groups viewed the abstract idea of education and actually putting education to practice. When it came the abstract, all three groups showed a high regard for education. When given positive statements about education’s value, a minimum of 80% of students agreed. This is a huge difference from the less than the less than 20% of students who thought that “school is not necessarily a clear path to a better life.” But when it came to education in the concrete all three groups showed less optimism, the noncompliant believers being the most extreme case. This is shown in the average grades of the three sample groups: 90, 80, and 73 with the cultural mainstreamers holding the highest and the noncompliant believers with the

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