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'Acting white' and being black?

By Crystal Wright
updated 9:12 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
  • Crystal Wright is tired of blacks putting down other blacks by saying they are "acting white"
  • President Obama addressed the term while speaking to a group of young men this week
  • Wright: There is no litmus test for being black

Editor's note: Crystal Wright is a conservative writer who runs the blog She also is a principal at the Baker Wright Group, a communications and public relations firm. You can follow her on Twitter @GOPBlackChick. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- There's no "authentic" way to be black, President Barack Obama told a group.

For once, I agree with the President.

Speaking at a town hall event this week about his "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, the President gave blacks permission to be individuals, rejecting the idiotic notion that speaking proper English and being successful in life is "acting white." As if any person of any race with two grains of sense would think this is logical.

Crystal Wright
Crystal Wright

During the event, Obama was asked by a young Native American man, "How is the United States government helping American Indian people revitalize their language and culture?"

Obama responded: "What's great about America is the way that we all take these different cultures and we make one culture out of it."

Obama said that it is important for Americans to know their roots and where they come from, but not be held hostage by our cultures from advancing in life.

Then, Obama got real. He talked about how black Americans use this "group think" psychology to bully other blacks, keep them from expressing themselves as individuals and stop them from assimilating into the broader culture of America.

"Sometimes African-Americans, in communities where I've worked, there's been the notion of 'acting white' -- which sometimes is overstated," he told the group. "But there's an element of truth to it, where, OK, if boys are reading too much, then, well, why are you doing that? Or why are you speaking so properly? And 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 has to go. There are many different ways for African-American men to be authentic."

He went on to use his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, as an example.

My Brother's Keeper
Lemon: Obama became the black president

"If you look at Michelle, she grew up South Side. And her mom still lives in a neighborhood where gunshots go off, and it can be rough where Michelle grew up. But she'll talk proper when she needs to. Now, you also don't want to get on her wrong side, because she can translate that into a different vernacular. But my point is, is that you don't have to act a certain way to be authentic."

I rolled my eyes in disgust, remembering all the times in my life that phrase has been hurled at me from other blacks.

Growing up, I wasn't raised in a home where we "talked or acted black" -- speaking broken English, neck jerking and behaving like the black stereotypes we see in some of the Tyler Perry movies. So, I was shocked to encounter such nonsense when I attended Georgetown University as an undergraduate.

Most of the black students -- who generally all hung out in the same pack, eating, studying and socializing exclusively together -- informed me I was an "Uncle Tom," not really black because I chose to have an integrated experience at Georgetown.

One of the biggest sins I committed was refusing to eat at the all-black cafeteria tables in the various dorms. I would wonder, if you only want to socialize with black students, then why not just attend a predominantly black college?

My freshman year, I went to a dance with a white guy from my class. When he came by my dorm room to pick me up, two black girls from across the hall stared and snickered, uttering something along the lines that I wanted to be white so bad.


The next day the same girls heckled me again about my date. Tired of dealing with their stupidity, I walked over and told them I would continue to do whatever I wanted. Instead of being so concerned with my life and who I was dating, they should be concerned with their own.

I have never been counseled on how to act black. And I never will.

More recently, my blackness was questioned by Keli Goff during an appearance on CNN last week. The two of us were discussing the illegal immigration crisis and Goff didn't like the argument I made. So she tried to insult me.

"So what I'm saying is, Crystal, I mean I don't know if you identify as African-American. I do, but if you drop me off in Africa I couldn't speak the language."

Clearly, Goff missed the President's memo. There is no litmus test for being black.

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