A thoughtful reader suggests that I consider new implications of an integrated class of black American youth suffering the stigma of 'acting white' in proportions greater than ever. I react crankily but in the spirit of 'what are we really talking about here' ?
In general I think 'role-modeling' is a poor substitute for reading the great books and smacks to me of the subtle bigotry of low expectations. My kids have never gone to a school where non-whites were a majority - so I'd imagine that they'd hear the 'acting white' stuff a fair amount according to the theory, but the subject has never come up. I think this is a marginally interesting subject that would make a fair bookshelf companion to 'stereotype threat'. But.. well, how should I express it? My attitude is to tell my three kids to take over the world, and I moved the family into a very expensive neighborhood by choice - one that I lived in when I was a young adult, not from an abstract position. I told them that nothing those kids have they earned themselves except for their grades in school and their own achievements after school. For this I've been rewarded with at least one of them being on the honor roll going on 18 semesters straight (I just had to count, never kept count before now). All three made it for the semester just closing.
I think there is something to say about the inexperience of 'new money' which has a direct parallel among emergent folks who are 'new middle class', and my nickel bet says that a means tested cross-section of folks would find a greater correlation among that dimension than skin tints. Of course I understand one can't really sustain a conversation in the main without shouting race and then subtly breaking it down behind the scenes - after all only Murray and Herrnstein are themselves. But my own personal paradigm is that of old money vs new and networks of smart money vs those fools who find themselves and their money soon parted. Coming from a family who valued education for its own sake I recognize a sort of overproduction of narrow middle class values. So what I'm suggesting on the whole is that I'm skeptical of class-raising consciousness, not only from a prior- black nationalist skepticism of white liberal agendas, or from a current conservatives wariness of Marxist materialism and the role of third parties in providing for the needs of the masses, but also from the direct paucity of inspirations of those who have 'made it' a la Brooks' Bobos in Paradise. In other words, I'm a very difficult person to get excited about any sort of class imperatives. It seems to me that there are only a small and permanent set of things that make people truly happy, and that's why everybody throughout history have gone after money and power - and in the end history is written about those who get it. Power and money make the nation and the fortunes of all ride on the backs of the health of the nation. The greatest glory humanly possible is to be the nation's champion.
The virtue of the middle rungs in a free society? Well. That's hard to say. I mean, I have a hard time understanding why people get drunk. I mean a really hard time. I just don't get it. Is carousing a privilege or a vice? I mean if you're gainfully employed and you're a drunken bum in your finished basement bar it's cool, right? But the man who begs for beer on the corner? When is it, and from which perspective do we just let people be whatever they want to be? What if the entire American middle class is on shaky moral ground this decade? What are we to make of their advice to those in the income quintile below? How seriously are we to take the middle finger of the blue collar worker, or the first time voting Shiite in Iraq for that matter?
What's interesting to me is a small, enduring set of values about which we could say with minimum ambiguity are our pledges of allegiance to that which is proven true in Western Civilization and upon which we pledge our fortunes, our blood, our sacred honor. All else? Why do we even bother to care, much less proselytize?
As you can see. I'm catholic. I care about acting right. Everything else is a distraction.
prior Cobbage on 'Acting White'
So if acting black or acting latino means not having college aspirations or having intellectuality as a hallmark of one's personality, it can only be repulsive to dainty folks with multiple degrees after their names. It is not necessarily an injustice. It's simply counter to the wishful thinking that suggests we all need to be *that* literate as a society. I say we become that literate at our peril and it is this nations ability to deliver Constitutional guarantees to its poor huddled masses and internal Third Worlds, that will make us robust enough to survive the challenges of the future and global economy. I say if the Chinese can pay $20 a day, why can't we? I say we need lower class workers to feel just as American as I do without feeling jealous and envious of me. I talk to my gardener like a man. What's the problem?