Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Acting a ‘color’: the irony of words

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I was walking with a friend around campus and we overheard a comment — made by a black female — about someone “acting black.”

I do not enjoy hearing such comments come from any ethnic group, particularly my own. These comments marginalize the group and person making those comments.

“I never thought of it like that,” she said. My friend went on to say that she believed the comments were sometimes right.

My initial reaction was to grab her by the arm, sit her down and explain exactly why a comment that places an entire group into one category was never right. I didn’t do that. Instead I reiterated that marginalizing your own ethnic group was a destructive practice not only to her, but also to the people within her ethnic group.

So why are black men and women using the phrases “acting white” or “acting black”?

Essentially, by making these comments, black men and women are typecasting themselves and their entire ethnic group. When someone says, “Why is that person acting black or white?” or, “He’s acting black or white,” they are saying that the popular and singular perception of their ethnic group is correct and that everyone within their ethnic group is exactly the same.

The idea that an entire ethnic group acts a certain way and should be defined in that manner needs to be eradicated.

Is it even possible to act a color? The Oxford Dictionary defines color as, “the property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way the object reflects or emits light.” Unless the performer has a spectacular ability to portray spectrums of light, “acting a color” is impossible.

I realize that by using a dictionary definition of the word “color” that I may have taken the phrases “acting white” or “acting black” too literally, but isn’t using those expressions in regard to an entire ethnic group even more preposterous?

A consensus on the origins of “acting a certain color” does not exist, but one thing is certain, when the phrase is used, it is used to denigrate the ethnic group that it’s commenting on. There is nothing more ironic than when a black man or woman uses either phrase.

The irony exists because a black man or woman who chooses to use the terms is succumbing to the social and racial prejudice that they say they’re trying to overcome. What’s even more troublesome is the fact that many of the men and women who use the terms aren’t even aware of what they’re doing.

The terms “acting black” and “acting white” have become so prevalent in society that even President Barack Obama felt compelled to speak out against the terms and their overarching impact.

“The notion that there’s some authentic way of being black, that if you’re going to be black you have to act a certain way and wear a certain kind of clothes, … that (notion) has to go, because there are a whole bunch of different ways for African-American men to be authentic,” Obama said.

While these comments refer to African-American men, the message of the comments is universal as summarized by Obama: “You don’t have to act a certain way to be authentic.”

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