Thursday, December 31, 2009

Black students, harassed for "acting white," get $150,000

The South Carolina Lawyers Weekly (Hat tip: Eugene Volokh) reports that two Black students sued the Williamsburg County School District over racial harassment they claim they received from other Black students. The school district offered and the students accepted a $150,000 settlement:
Both students were African-American, and so was most of the elementary school's student body, according to Kobrovsky [the student's lawyer]. Most students were also black at the high school that her uncle attended.
The problem was the culture of rural Williamsburg County, he said.
"You have a culture where to act like you want to do well in school is considered acting white. And that is part of why we're saying that it was racial, even though the students were all of the same race because they weren't acting how the others thought they should be acting as members of that race," Kobrovsky said.
The uncle testified that racial separation in the county generally meant white students attended private schools while black students attended public schools.
At the public schools, he said, fitting in meant not being what his family was: "churchy," "upright" and wanting education, as another witness put it, according to a trial transcript.
"You see, it's a crime to act white, or it's a crime to be white," the uncle testified.
Harassment, he testified, made him feel that "we are just dumb, we're just not people, we're undergraded, we're degraded, and we're not even supposed to be in this world." [Emph. added]
This is believed to be the "first Title VI lawsuit based on claims of intra-racial discrimination in South Carolina public schools."

Bill Cosby raised the issue back in May 2004: ''boys attacking other boys because the boys are studying and they say, 'You're acting white.''' Later in 2004, in his convention speech, Barack Obama said we need to "eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." Clarence Page discussed it in more detail:
There's nothing all that extraordinary, really, about kids ridiculing or ostracizing other students for making good grades, but it takes on a disturbing and tragic cast in the black community. When our kids put down their peers for allegedly, quote, "acting white" if they pick up a book or talking white if they use good English. It's disturbing because African-Americans have enough handicaps in the world without adding more of our own making.
It's hard to say how much this sort of negative peer pressure has to do with the persistent black/white achievement gap in schools, but it certainly doesn't help. Black leaders as diverse as Bill Cosby and Barack Obama have said as much. Now comes new word that blacks are not alone. Two Harvard researchers have found the stigmatizing effects of acting white appear to be felt even more by Hispanics who get top grades. Harvard economist Roland Fryer and graduate student Paul Torelli found that higher grades tend to bring more friends to white teens, while just the opposite happens to black and Hispanic youths. [Emph. added]
RELATED: Jesse Jackson is reported to have accused Barack Obama of "acting white" while Ralph Nader accused Obama of trying to "talk white."

WELCOME to readers of Sardonic Sister.

PREVIOUSLY on the subject of racism:
“You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”
"The city wasn't ready to hire a white police chief."

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