Radio 101: What It Means To "Act White"

Radio 101: What It Means To "Act White"

9:51pm Aug 05, 2016
Radio 101 reporter, Peyton Watson, has black friends who say that he "acts white." He talks about what the phrase means to him.
Lopa Shah

Radio 101 is WFDD's education program for high school students. Radio 101 reporter, Peyton Watson, tells his story.

Peyton Watson is an African-American teen. Peyton emphasizes that he doesn't want to embody the sterotype of young, black males, who he says are often seen as "violent, thuggish, uneducated, and disrespectful." One way he hopes to breaks the stereotype is by being a good student.

Although most of his friends accept and even encourage his academic success, Peyton admits that some of black peers are not as supportive.  They tell him he is "acting white."

Peyton believes that black people sometimes stereotype their own culture when they define what is considered as "acting black." He attributes this attitude to blacks who are suffering and want to feel like they are bonded by a common sense of struggle. He descibes it as an "we're all in this together" attitude.

Peyton talks to William Boone, a professor of African-American studies at Winston-Salem State University. Boone points out that the accusation of "acting white" has deep roots. He asks Peyton to reflect on who has had the right to think.

Historically, white men in America were the only people who had a right to think. And so when we talk about black male education we’re actually talking about a revolutionary, counterculture act. It was illegal for people of color to become educated.

Peyton bemoans the way that academically gifted blacks are portrayed in popular culture as unattractive, annoying nerds. He struggles to find the balance between being cool and studying hard.

Peyton is aware of the difficult position he is in.

Many whites dislike me because success isn’t normal for someone of my race, gender and age. And certain blacks dislike me because they haven’t been able to find success against the odds.

Peyton finds inspiration in his heroes, Martin Luther King, Jr. and W.E.B. Du Bois, as well as his family. He hopes to be a role model for other black teenagers by telling them that education isn't "whack" for African-Americans.