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A Potential Case of Linguistic Prejudice: The Expression of Identity in ‘Black and White’

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Abstract

The existence of a race-based stigma has been well documented among adolescents and young adults within higher educational settings; however, similar studies among students at historically Black universities are rare. Specifically, the ‘acting white’ accusation is a common, and yet seldom openly discussed phenomenon that exist within the African American community. This type of stigma is often relegated to certain characteristics (i.e., behaviors, preferences, etc.) that may defy individual and collective assumptions regarding African Americans. Utilizing nearly 200 student questionnaires, this study identified the extent to which speaking correct English as well as other specific behaviors are associated with being accused of acting white. This process incorporated the use of bivariate correlation and regression models. Findings suggest that speaking correct English as well as the existence of other factors (i.e., preferences in dress, associations, etc.) are significantly related to the accusation. This includes both experiential and nonexperimental student responses. In determining predictor variables, those who experience as well as how they respond to the accusation revealed statistical significance. The study concludes by offering areas of further research as well as suggested policy implications within higher educational settings. This includes an examination of complex and multilayered aspects of identity among minority groups within academic environments.

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Acknowledgements

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of George Amedee, John Penny, Darren Gil, Joseph Coleman, and Chelsi Clark in the collection of the data used in this article.

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Correspondence to Patrick Webb.

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Webb, P. A Potential Case of Linguistic Prejudice: The Expression of Identity in ‘Black and White’. Urban Rev 50, 478–492 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-017-0442-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-017-0442-9

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