Quite simply, the idea that the “acting white” charge is a myth is itself a myth. This myth is embraced by people who shudder in their boots at the idea that black problems—this time, scholastic performance—might be due to anything but white racism.
But there’s no need to fear “black bashing” on this one. As Stuart Buck has shown in an under-consulted book, the “acting white” charge is not only real (more testimonies too specific and copious to ignore), but it started in the late ’60s only as a response to how racist white teachers and students treated black kids amid the desegregation of schools. Desegregation was no fun even in less explicitly hideous circumstances like Little Rock—white kids could be mean to “those new people,” and there are countless tales of white teachers of the day telling black kids they could only do so well, and all but openly discriminating against them.
Note: It started in schools, and it has always been about school. Black nerds got teased before 1966—but they were just called things like “walking encyclopedia” (my mother elicited that one in the ’40s). The ’60s started something new.