Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation (Hardcover)

The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation

By Stuart Buck

Yale University Press, 9780300123913, 272pp.

Publication Date: May 1, 2010



Commentators from Bill Cosby to Barack Obama have observed the phenomenon of black schoolchildren accusing studious classmates of acting white. How did this contentious phrase, with roots in Jim Crow-era racial discord, become a part of the schoolyard lexicon, and what does it say about the state of racial identity in the American system of education?

The answer, writes Stuart Buck in this frank and thoroughly researched book, lies in the complex history of desegregation. Although it arose from noble impulses and was to the overall benefit of the nation, racial desegegration was often implemented in a way that was devastating to black communities. It frequently destroyed black schools, reduced the numbers of black principals who could serve as role models, and made school a strange and uncomfortable environment for black children, a place many viewed as quintessentially white.

Drawing on research in education, history, and sociology as well as articles, interviews, and personal testimony, Buck reveals the unexpected result of desegregation and suggests practical solutions for making racial identification a positive force in the classroom.

About the Author

An honors graduate of Harvard Law School, Stuart Buck is a Ph.D. student in education policy at the University of Arkansas. His work has appeared in the "Harvard Law Review, "the "Administrative Law Review, "and several other scholarly journals."

Praise For Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation

“The best race book of the year.”—John McWhorter, New Republic blog
-John McWhorter

"Acting White asks why African American students still lag so far behind their peers in academic achievement and offers a thoughtful and provocative answer to this crucial question."—Stephan Thernstrom, Harvard University

-Stephan Thernstrom

"[Buck] reminds us that we should remember that everything is composed of light and shadow. Before we attempt to improve schools, we need to understand the impact of change on culture, on deeply ingrained habits and ways of thinking."—Phil Brand, Washington Times
-Phil Brand