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1 SoCaroLion  Mar 4, 2015 10:04:41am


Thank you for sharing portions of this story from Vox. In my opinion, the article, read in its entirety, was interesting, but not necessarily enlightening. In fact, I think the article comes up critically short in two specific areas:

First, author Desmond-Harris comes up short in regards to the myth of ‘acting white’ by failing to include at least one specific example of a black student who succeeded despite the bullying and stereotyping she describes in the story.

Second, despite her discussion about socioeconomic inequalities, segregation, “teacher biases”, and racial stigmas, there is absolutely no use or mention of the following words or phrases: parent, parents, parenting, family, mother, father, or role model. (Maybe Desmond-Harris sequestered those issues under the umbrella of the “structural factors” she mentions in the second to last line of the story. Who knows? But they obviously were not intended to part of her analysis.)

So, in a humble attempt to correct both of her story’s shortcomings in a single example, please allow me to introduce Mr. John Urschel; first from and second from Huffpo.

From the Huffpo story:

John Urschel is, justifiably, a big deal…Even as a kid, it was obvious John was headed for great things. His mother, Venita Parker, set high academic standards for her son, and John made it his mission to meet them. A first generation college graduate and single mom, Venita felt it was her duty to make sure John filled every part of that giant, helmet-averse head with as much math and science as he could. She bought math and science workbooks two to three levels above his current grade and expected him to complete the work. At parent-teacher conference nights, even with John’s 96 percent average, she complained to the teachers that she was unsatisfied and asked what John needed to do to receive a perfect score. A 96 was good, but he could do better.

In addition to being selected as a first-team All-Big Ten guard, he recently completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics at Penn State, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. As a senior, he won the William V. Campbell Trophy [considered to be the academic Heisman], presented by the National Football Foundation to the nation’s top football scholar-athlete, and this month he became the 84th annual Sullivan Award winner for the top amateur athlete in the country… If that wasn’t impressive enough, during his last year at Penn State he taught a trigonometry class to undergraduates while fulfilling all his obligations to his team and also published a paper, “Instabilities of the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three Body Problem,” in the journal Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy.

And to sum it up:

Over the past years, as our society has put the spotlight on athletes and people like Michael Vick, the Kardashians, Justin Beiber and others who contribute the worst possible examples for our children, we should make sure to highlight and celebrate those like John Urschel who will impact our world far beyond an NFL career.

2 Lumberhead  Mar 4, 2015 10:44:36am

re: #1 SoCaroLion

What does any of that have to do with the myth of acting white?

3 SoCaroLion  Mar 4, 2015 11:04:55am

re: #2 Lumberhead

That’s funny. I guess an “in conclusion” would have been appropriate. So…

In conclusion, if Desmond-Harris had included a tangible example such as John Urschel, it would have helped her to further dispel the myth of ‘acting white’, and reinforce her story’s title, “The Most Insidious Myth About Black Kids and Achievement.”

4 Lumberhead  Mar 4, 2015 11:23:18am

re: #3 SoCaroLion

Has John Urschel ever been accused of “acting white”? I could have missed it but I didn’t notice any mention of that in the articles you linked. If not, then what does he have to do with the subject at hand.
Further, from the Vox article:

Jamelle Bouie gave his take on the distinction between these two experiences in a 2010 piece for the American Prospect, writing,

As a nerdy black kid who was accused of ‘acting white’ on a fairly regular basis, I feel confident saying that the charge had everything to do with cultural capital, and little to do with academics. If you dressed like other black kids, had the same interests as other black kids, and lived in the same neighborhoods as the other black kids, then you were accepted into the tribe. If you didn’t, you weren’t. In my experience, the “acting white” charge was reserved for black kids, academically successful or otherwise, who didn’t fit in with the main crowd. In other words, this wasn’t some unique black pathology against academic achievement; it was your standard bullying and exclusion, but with a racial tinge.

There it is right there, “at least one specific example of a black student who succeeded despite the bullying and stereotyping she describes in the story.”
Just to be clear, as a current writer at Slate, I consider him successful.

5 SoCaroLion  Mar 4, 2015 12:05:16pm

re: #4 Lumberhead

I stand corrected, sir. (I bet you weren’t expecting that.) I missed the example of Jamelle Bouie when I read through the article the first time.

Also, I have no idea if John Urschel was ever accused of ‘acting white’. I included his story simply because it is one that dispels many myths and preconceptions about family structure, academics and athletics, and I thought it was germane to the story.

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