If one accepts the findings of the Roland G. Fryer “acting white” study then the group with the most intense fear of being perceived as “white” for having high academic achievement is Hispanics. Whites in private schools have the second strongest fear of “acting white.” Blacks would come in third with the mildest fear of “acting white.” I raise these points because I doubt that white private school students are afraid of “acting white.” The closer one examines the study, the more problems appear.
In 2005, Roland G. Fryer, Jr. and Paul Torelli circulated a paper titled “An Empircal Analysis of ‘Acting White’” through the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and Fryer published a version of the paper for more general audiences titled “Acting White” in Education Next. The research received a great deal of media attention and it was treated as conclusive proof that the “acting white” phenomenon is a serious problem among black students. But if one reads the study carefully and especially the more academic version circulated by NBER one comes to very different conclusions.
The “acting white” phenomenon was defined in Fryer and Torelli’s study as when there are racial differences in the relationship between grades and “spectral popularity index scores.” It is important to note that the analysis is based on spectral popularity scores not actual accusations of “acting white.”
If we accept Fryer and Torelli’s assumptions and evidence then it appears that in majority black schools, black students cease to be as popular as white students after a B+ GPA. We can only dream of the day that most black students have B+ GPAs. This has to be seen as a very, very mild case of “acting white.”
The problem for black students appears to be more severe in integrated schools because in integrated schools after a C GPA, black students are not as popular as white students. This still makes the problem fairly modest because the vast majority of black students attend segregated schools. Additionally, although black students in integrated schools have lower popularity index scores than whites, their popularity index scores still increase slightly up to a B+ GPA. (See image below. Click on image for a better view.) So, if popularity affects black student achievement, even in integrated schools they still have an incentive up to a B+.
Every time I get involved in the "acting white" "debates," I always state that there are different studies that show different things and when you break them all down, the so-called "acting white" charge is not as simple as people make it appear.