Many of us in the black community have heard the term “acting white.” Many of us may have even been accused of “acting white” at one point or another. We are hearing this statement more and more now, in reference to Barack Obama. So it is time for us to ask ourselves the question, is there such a thing as acting white? What are the connotations of that statement? If there is a certain way to act white, then can somebody act black?

Many times people will make these accusations, even if they don’t understand the true depth of their statement. This statement is a very harsh and ignorant one to make, one that promotes negative stereotypes of black people while discouraging and endangering the diversity within our own race. If we take a look at how and when this statement, “acting white” is used, then we will be able to what it means to “act black.” Then, we will be able to see the problem with this phrase. This is a phrase that black people should never say to one another, because it only perpetuates the negative stereotypes that have been attributed to our race.
Usually, when someone accuses another person of acting white, when asked what he or she means by “acting white,” the accuser cannot give a response. In fact, acting white is very hard to explain when the opposite is not examined. So, in order for us to define “acting white,” we have to take a look at the opposite, “acting black.” It seems as if, acting white is not defined by what a subject does, but what he or she doesn’t do. For example, Barack Obama’s “blackness” has been in question since his debut on the political scene because he is articulate. This would mean that Barack Obama would be “more black” if he were inarticulate. When someone speaks a certain way, usually when speaking properly without using slang, he or she is accused of “acting white.”  The term “acting white” only seems to be used when someone does not fit the stereotypes, often negative ones, of black people. This places our race into a box, and causes us to place limitations on ourselves.
Accusations of “acting white” are not limited to just speech. I have heard these accusations being made in reference to interests in music, fashion, and other activities. For example, I once heard a man accuse a black skateboarder of “acting white” because, according to this man, “skateboarding is for white people.” Also, I have heard music other than hip-hop and R&B, such as rock and pop termed as “white people’s music.” From my experience, many of the people that make these accusations are unexposed, and have only been around people that fit the stereotypes of black people, or people that do not stray far from the stereotypes.
What these people that make these accusations do not realize, probably due to lack of exposure, is that a person’s race is not defined by how he or she acts. Why should “acting black” be defined by such negative and one-dimensional attributes? By holding other black people to the low standards that are set for us, these people place our race in a box. This causes us to place limitations on each other, which disrupts unity and acceptance. There is a great diversity within the black race, and it is important that we recognize and accept that. That is part of what makes our race so beautiful. We are doing a disservice to ourselves when we hold each other to such low standards. When somebody accuses somebody of “acting white” it is a sign that that person is unexposed and ignorant. There is no such thing as acting white. There is no such thing as acting black. Rather than putting someone down for not fitting into the box that stereotypes have carved out for black people, we should be commending that person, and learning from their differences.
I believe there may be a word missing in between “to” and “what.” Determine? Know?