New Book: Acting White? Rethinking Race in Post-Racial America

I don’t know about the Post-Racial part but this one is for all the kids (like me) who’ve ever been called “coconut,” “oreo,” “apple” or “banana.”

Acting White? : Rethinking Race in Post-Racial America

In Acting White, Devon Carbado and Mitu Gulati argue that racial judgments are often based not just on skin color, but on how a person conforms to behavior stereotypically associated with a certain race. Specifically, people judge racial minorities on how they “perform” their race. That includes the clothes they wear, how they style their hair, the institutions with which they affiliate, their racial politics, the people they befriend, date or marry, where they live, how they speak, and their outward mannerisms and demeanor. 


Employing these cues, decision-makers decide not simply whether a person is black but the degree to which she or he is so. Relying on numerous examples from the workplace, higher education, and police interactions, the authors demonstrate that, for African Americans, the costs of “acting black” are high. This creates pressures for blacks to “act white.” 


But, as the authors point out, “acting white” has costs as well. Written in an easy style that is non-doctrinaire and provocative, the book makes complex concepts both accessible and interesting. Whether you agree and disagree with Acting White, the book will challenge your assumptions and make you think about racial prejudice from a fresh vantage point.


Devon Carbado is Associate Dean at the UCLA School of Law and Professor of Law and African American Studies. Mitiu Gulati is Professor of Law at Duke University.

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