Looks like - contra that liberal media - poverty and racism may be barriers to Black achievement after all:
Karolyn Tyson, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and William Darity Jr., an economist at Duke and U.N.C., coordinated an 18-month ethnographic study at 11 schools in North Carolina. What they found was that black students basically have the same attitudes about achievement as their white counterparts do: they want to succeed, understand that doing well in school has important consequences in later life and feel better about themselves the better they do. So where does the idea of the burden of "acting white" come from? One explanation the authors offer will make sense to anyone who has ever seen a John Hughes movie: there's an "oppositional peer culture" in every high school -- the stoners and the jocks making fun of the nerds and the student-government types. When white burnouts give wedgies to white A students, the authors argue, it is seen as inevitable, but when the same dynamic is observed among black students, it is pathologized as a racial neurosis. More insidiously, the authors say, the idea that failing black kids pull down successful black kids can be used as an excuse by administrators to conceal or justify discrimination in the public-education system. The one school where the researchers did find anxiety about "acting white" was the one in which black students were drastically underrepresented in the gifted-and-talented classes. And significantly, at this particular school, the notion of the burden of "acting white" was most pervasive not among the black students interviewed by the researchers, but among their teachers and administrators, who told researchers that blacks are "averse to success" and "don't place a high value on education."


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