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Acting White

To answer quickly and specifically, in the case that I mentioned, the people applying the social pressure were heavily armed and had already murdered one or more persons. This changes the math, by raising the stakes considerably.

Before answering more generally, I do not consider myself a rascist. The individual in question came from a failed community. Not all communities which contain black people fail, and not all failed communities fail quite this completely. Also, I Am Not A Social Anthroplogist.

Broadly, "Acting White" is more generally applicable. Academic achievement is, in theory, a virtue. The people who put pressure on me for achievement would first construct a premise; perhaps my achievement was interpreted as a slight, or perhaps some effort was put into balancing out my achievement in the context of my numerous faults and shortcomings. There is a form of emotional logic at work that has its own rules. Your achievement has made them feel small, has hurt them, and they will look for an excuse or context in which retaliation can be justified.

Acting white is different in two ways. First off, it interprets your achievement as a threat or insult to all black people. Within the context of emotional logic, it follows that every black person (who accepts that "acting white" is valid criticism) can feel insulted by the simple fact of your achievement, with no additional excuse or context necessary. You are literally construed as betraying your race.

The second difference has to do with the stakes. Of the various people I went to school with, the worst result of which I am aware is a man who now works at a gas station. He is gainfully employed, and has his hobies and distractions. Compared to a computer programmer, he has failed to take advantage of the education provided, but as failures go his is mild.

The difference between a computer programmer and the worst result in the failed community this individual came from is a great deal more stark. I don't have the citation handy, but there is a game theory involving a random distribution of money from the bank and a round (or two) of penalties, where players can bid some of their money to reduce the winnings of others. The study showed that the player allotted the most money used penalties the most, trying to preserve his relative wealth compared to the other players. The conclusion I drew was that individuals don't care as much about absolute wealth as with relative wealth. The sight of someone heading onward to a career that might earn ten or fifty times the income that you can expect to earn will be perceived as a much larger personal hurt. Emotional logic again, but the part of human nature that hates to see others succeed is most likely a great deal more engaged when the relative difference in success is larger. As it was in this case.