Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Higher Education

First Advisor

Ryan Evely Gildersleeve, Ph.D.


Acting Black, Acting White, Black College Students, Race, Social Constructions


This study was a qualitative examination of Black college students' experiences with the Acting White label. In conducting this study, two gaps in literature were addressed: (1) the lack of literature on Black college students and the acting white label, and (2) lack of attention to a US racial history and current structures which allow a label such as "acting white" to exist. Thus, the purpose of this study was to call attention to the experiences of Black college students as it relates to the acting white label. Additionally, the study calls attention to social constructions that allow the acting white label to exist and to be sustained. Data was collected from 14 Black college students at a predominantly white, private, liberal arts university in the west.

Based on responses from students in the study, Black college students do hear that they are acting white. Yet, their reaction to hearing the label does not cause them to underachieve academically, but does have an impact on their social actions. The ways in which Black college students in the study were labeled as acting white was based on academic pursuits, speech patterns, dress, and hobbies. Student reactions to the label ranged from ignoring the label to challenging the accuser. In regards to how the acting white label is sustained, students in the study expressed that they learned what it meant to act white or black from family interactions, social interactions and observations from family and friends, and from media sources. It was concluded that Black college students, despite reactions, do hear the label and that the label seems to be used as a means to attack Black students and their identity.

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Evette L. Allen

File size

200 p.

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Education Commons