How the Labeling of “Acting White” Manifests itself Among People of Color: The Life Experiences of Cultural Straddlers

Norah Owens

Abstract

The purpose of Study 1 (quantitative) and Study 2 (qualitative) was to understand whether the acting white label can either positively or negatively affect a cultural straddler’s decision to assume certain lifestyles. The quantitative study examined how sociocultural norms, the acting white hypothesis, and cultural transmission relate to the academic attitudes of young adults. The study found a significant relationship between a cultural straddler and academic attitude showing a significant relationship within the qualitative study. Study 2, was conducted, consisting of indepth interviews with four parts. The goal of these studies was to understand this societal phenomenon of people of color cynically categorizing other people of color based on their cultural openness, high academic prowess, or extracurricular activity, which is too often considered as “acting white.” The quantitative results and themes that emerged from the qualitative study suggested that the acting white hypothesis impacts youth of color and that while peers have a strong influence the participants of the study frequently conformed but ultimately rose above the critiques of peers. The project ends with conclusions from both studies and implications for further research and future community interventions.