On air: Do blacks and Asians have to behave like white people to succeed?

This question comes out several debates we’ve been following for the past few weeks. And before I continue, a ‘coconut’ or an ‘Oreo’ is a disparaging term for a black or Asian person who is seen as behaving like a white person.

1. Ndumiso Ngcobo’s a South African columnist on thoughtleader.co.za. He’s at the centre of row after saying ‘I’m a coconut and proud of it’. He rejects that taking on certain characteristics makes him more ‘white’.

2. South African journalist Jon Qwelane is also in the thick of it after saying that ‘there was no room for journalists in South Africa who were “authentically black” and there were black editors who suppressed black self determination and identity’. He also called those who opposed black-only meetings of the Forum of Black Journalists ‘coconuts’. Here he says he won’t apologise.

3. Last year a BBC survey found that more than a third of British Asians believe that to get ahead as an Asian in this country it is necessary to be a coconut.

4. Here’s a fascinating post by Trini blogger mentalTHREESIXTY. He grapples with how ‘black’ he is and how African Americans have had a problem with his credentials. What’s interesting is that clearly becoming more ‘white’ as some people have said of him has not been a conscious decision.

If you’re black or Asian, have you had to compromise your background or culture to make your way? If you have had to, did you mind doing it? Or maybe, you think you’ve been at a disadvantage because you won’t change. Are you an employer? Are you more impressed if black or Asian applicants behave in a ‘white’ way?

Or does this mean nothing to you? Is the notion of being ‘black’ or ‘white’ completely out of date? Is being black a ‘state of mind’, as Jon Qwelane suggests?

211 Responses to “On air: Do blacks and Asians have to behave like white people to succeed?”

  1. 1 ZK
    April 14, 2008 at 13:46

    If you don’t mind, please define ‘Asian’. Do you mean subcontinental Asian, or Asian from/with roots in the rest of Asia?

  2. 2 Ros Atkins
    April 14, 2008 at 14:03

    Hi ZK. Either definition is fine. What we’re getting at is people who aren’t white feeling like they need behave in a ‘white way’.

  3. 3 Xie_Ming
    April 14, 2008 at 14:05

    An East Asian would probably never entertain such an idea!

    It might be an issue among Indians (South Asians).

    It has been claimed that black Africans adopt one mentality when dealing with the white world and a different mentality when dealing with the black world.

    Let’s hear from people who know!

  4. 4 André
    April 14, 2008 at 14:14

    At the moment the “white European culture” is the dominant social, economic and military force on the planet – as it has been for centuries. In powerful countries and regions such as the USA, Russia, Canada, the EU and Oceania this culture predominates and leads the world.

    It is possible that in the foreseeable future that the “white European culture” may be superseded by Asian cultures (Chinese and Indian), as those countries begin to reach towards their full economic and military potential. In history the dominant culture (Greek, Roman, Chinese, Egyptian), always paralleled the most powerful and successful societies. Asia is now challenging the European “Old Guard” for economic and social dominance. Therefore it is quite likely that Asian from successful states like China, Japan, South Korea etcetera will hold on to a large proportion of their own cultural background and that the “white European culture” will have to adjust to this new reality. It is likely that the “white European” and Asian cultures will co-dominate the world – depending on the geographical region in which a person is located.

    On the other hand there is no such culture for black people. While there have been many accomplished, highly educated and highly successful black people, there is no nation or region with a successful, technologically and economically advanced black-majority state. As a result, black people will probably have to adopt a sizeable proportion of dominant culture’s behavioural and social characteristics of both the fading “white European culture” as well as the rising “Asian culture” to have any chance of being accepted in the economic and social worlds of the dominant cultures.

    PS: I am a black person who would have liked to have seen one or more African states take up the mantle as a highly technical, successful and leading state. The closest sub-saharan Africa has to such a state is South Africa – which was largely organized by the “white European culture” in pre-black majority times.

  5. 5 Ros Atkins
    April 14, 2008 at 14:17

    Blacks or Asians don’t have to behave like white to succeed, but success depends on borrowing good values from each other.

    Jared Ombui
    Makerere University

  6. 6 George USA
    April 14, 2008 at 14:25

    False premise

    No it is not a matter of race or pretending to be another race.

    Social and business norms are manners and dress that present an individual well, capable of trust and business interaction.

    In Spanish and Latin American countries this is called ” Presentacion”. Presentation.

    It is important. It is not race. Rebel to fail. Embrace it to succeed.

  7. 7 Ros Atkins
    April 14, 2008 at 14:29

    My answer is NO NO and NO.It is only a black or asian person who donot know the value of what he/she has that go about pretending to be white, however I think the whites have a role to play too in putting an end to this by stopping their racial discriminations against other races. This way the world would be a better and safer place for us all.

  8. 8 Bruce
    April 14, 2008 at 14:33

    I’m white, but if I moved to a country where the predominant race wasn’t white, I would understand perfectly if I had to adopt aspects of their culture to succeed there. Is being British “being white”? I don’t think so. But it IS being British. Do you need to adopt some aspects of “Britishness” to succeed in Britain? I would think so. I think a white Italian would need to adjust somewhat – so it’s not surprising that someone from China or Africa would as well. Is that “acting white”? No, it’s acting British. The same could be said of needing to “act French” in France or “act Japanese” in Japan.

    Calling someone an “oreo” is insulting to everyone concerned – it implies that how you act should be dictated by your appearance. You ignore cultural behaviours at your own peril.

  9. 9 Nge Valentine
    April 14, 2008 at 14:35

    White, yellow, green or black, we are all human beings. The problem resides in our mentality and I think it is heriditory and psychologic. We blacks just need a change of mentality and we will top. Blacks in africa are having all the natural resources that can be found on earth but still yet they suffer a lot. We are carrying bananas on our heads and birds are doing away with it even in our presence.
    Blacks and asians just have to change their ways of reasoning and keep away heatrate in order to prosper.

  10. 10 George USA
    April 14, 2008 at 14:36

    Could this topic’s presentation itself fuel the misguided youth?

    By using a false premise for the question

    do you promote the false notion that dressing for success is a racial thing?

    Professional people dress like professional people, regardless of race.

    If you want the job, the business deal, the respect of peers, the advancement

    dress and use the manners of someone capable of interacting with the level you wish to achieve

    rather than rebel dress to that position.

    One indicates you are capable of stepping into the job, the other indicates you have issues of conflict with the the norms.

    Who would you hire: man in a business suit and tie or baggy pants hanging below your rear?

    Which Doctor do you want: clean, tie, white coat or shorts and tennis shoes?

    It is not a race issue: to present it as such only misdirects young people to cheat themselves of opportunity.

  11. 11 ZK
    April 14, 2008 at 14:39

    Do I feel I have to act like a white man to succeed? Perhaps. It depends on the context of the situation, surely. If in a situation with other Asian people I wouldn’t feel too bothered about acting myself, but when white foreigners get involved there is a sense that you have to ‘click’ with them…and naturally that might mean acting white.

  12. 12 Des Currie
    April 14, 2008 at 14:50

    Confusion reigns. Just exactly how does a white man be white? And just exactly how does someone who is not white pretend to be white? By walking in the shadows so no-one can see he is not white? What a load of codswallop it is that gets dished out into the media by those who are so fixated by their colour that they forget to factor any wisdom or logic into their thought process. Racists, all of them, with no other thought in their minds other than their skin colour, blacks and whites alike.
    Des Currie

  13. April 14, 2008 at 14:51

    Ros, I believe that those people who want to become coconuts are not serious.Its a sign of low self esteem.I see a lot of people at the University campus trying to behave that way and I pity them greatly. I think we need to promote our culture too.A people without a culture they are proud of are dead and no longer existent.

    Phillip K in Makerere University

  14. 14 VictorK
    April 14, 2008 at 14:53

    Interesting issue, especially when you realise what ‘acting white’ actually means for some groups: acting responsibly, studying hard and wanting to get a good education, taking an interest in culture (e.g. going to museums and art galleries), wanting a good job, and in general having middle class aspirations. In short, being civilised.

    African-American children have long been reported as being bullied and insulted (by other African-Americans) simply for wanting to do well at school (academically, rather than in sports). It really has come to something when its acceptable to take the view that authentic black culture in the US is basically synonymous with quasi-barbarism, and when the people pushing this identity are not the Klan but other black people. If you have no interest in academic achievement, have never set foot in a theatre, aren’t a member of your local library and can’t remember when you last bought a book, have spent time in correctional facilities, have or affect to have ghetto-bred – i.e. thuggish – manners, speak a barely intelligible English patois, have musical horizons that begin with rap and end with hip hop, and have had a couple of kids while a teenager, then you’re well and truly black according to this view of things; if you want to go to Harvard and behave accordingly, then you’re “acting white”. Hard to know whether to regard this as tragedy or farce.

    African-Americans have a problem because they are trying to construct an identity out of a genetic fact, rather than out of a cultural and social heritage. There is no such thing as a ‘black identity’ in Africa; there are specific ethno-cultural identities, i.e. Zulu, Twi, Igbo, Yoruba, Luo, etc. The chief marker for all of these is language. African-Americans speak English: that is the pointer to their culture, that of Anglo-America.

    It’s no surprise that some of the South African examples you give replicate the madness and folly of African-Americans (who, are of course purely a product of America, and culturally have nothing at all of Africa about them), or that the African examples all come from South Africa. I suspect that South Africa’s balck elite are trying to create a common identity for all South African blacks that transcends the actual ethnic identities that they already possess: a ‘black African’ identity. There isn’t and can never be any such thing, and the attempt to forge it can only end in failure, disappointment and rage. It is not surprising, given their history, that South Africa’s black politicians are almost as race-obsessed as African-Americans, or that the leadership of both groups – but also many in the rank and file – possessing as they do such deep hostility to whites, make a point of distancing their people and themselves from what they see as the hated white foe. The whole ‘oreo’ and ‘acting white’ view of things and rhetoric seems to be a product of that underlying hostility, at a popular level, as does the acceptance, if not celebration, of any cultural characteristics (however negative or self-destructive) that serve the function of setting blacks apart from whites (such as some of the truly foul and barbaric musical forms amongst African-Americans, exulting as they do in sexism, racism, homophobia and violence). This whole phenomenon is especially pathetic in South Africa where blacks are a power-holding majority but continue to have the mental outlook of a helpless, self-pitying and resentful minority.

    Middle class values are good and people are wise to aspire to them. Added to this is the consideration that there is in the world today only one civilisation, that of the West. People are equally wise to acquaint themselves with its cultural and scientic achievements. Class and culture are not matters of race and the whole ‘acting white’ phenomenon is just another chapter in the age old story of envy: envy that other people should aspire to what you don’t have and perhaps can’t attain.

    Race is real enough though (its absurd to say that black and white – and brown and yellow for that matter – somehow don’t matter); and it doesn’t make any sense to suggest that one’s race can simply be dismissed as just ‘a state of mind – tell that to a white man suffering from multiple sclerosis or a black man from hypertension. That’s just Western liberalism trying to pass off its agreeable fantasies as facts.

  15. 15 Arnaud ntirenganya Emmanuel
    April 14, 2008 at 14:54

    To succeed in the world today we need to consider many things at the time like education, communication skills, and civilization…behaving like whites depends in what sense…not forgetting that many imitate some white’s behavior that leads to failure…because all white’s ways are not ideal…and why some can’t work in blacks or Asians. You should also ask whether whites have to copy some behaviors of blacks and Asians in order to succeed more.

  16. 16 Ana Milena, Colombia
    April 14, 2008 at 14:56

    🙂 Hi, everyone!
    Sorry… How do white people act? How do black and Asian people act? We all act the same way, though we look in a different way – that’s what people with prejudice never understand. We’re all the same, and I don’t think we’ve got to change our essence – appearanve, behaviour, etc. – simply because we’re all the same: HUMAN BEINGS!
    I know good and bad people, smart and stupid people, generous and mean people…. And believe me, it’s never been connedted to their colour or kind.


  17. April 14, 2008 at 15:02

    I am completely facinated with this blog today if for any other reason that it touches on the very sore subject of race at the level of identity politics and ethnicity in the global political economy where “white values” are, in the main, the ones which are in ascendancy. The reality would obviously be, therefore, that there is a way in which alot of what the rest of the world does is influenced, in some instances, very much so, by these values. “Wteness”, in effect, asa discourse of acceptability is considered a normative value. It is often never questioned, or is assumed to be so ‘natural’ it is sometimes difficult to meaningfully disucuss this topic without causing offence; at the very least misunderstanding.

    The reality, however, is that as a black man from the Global South, though I feel very much ‘Western’, I often contend the issue of “true blackness”, especially when one considers that the rise of religions and political movements like Rastafari in Jamaica have, in the main, privileged blackness as a normative identity and one almost synonymous with being Jamaican.

    Whereas, I do not feel that I necessarilly embody all of these ideas or for that matter all of the notions of what a traditional Jamaican is supposed to be, I feel that there is some value in recognising that blackness as ethnicity, racial, sexual or even national politics is not only a disputed subject but also that blackness is not a monolithic identity. There have been too many political and other factors which have influenced the business of identity formation, historically, especially for those of us in the African Diaspora, to be contented with only one expression of blackness as normative and, therefore, right. I believe, as a result, that we are all borrowing from each other in numerous ways though we rarely sometimes consider this.

    Of course, the cultures from which we seem to borrow the most are those from the developed West, (up North), primarily Europe and the US. As those societies are majority European it is not hard to see how progress as value, ethic or discipline can also come to be defined as synonymous with whiteness, in the modern world.

  18. 18 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 15:04

    So what exactly is “behaving black or asian”?

  19. 19 Marsha
    April 14, 2008 at 15:07

    I think Bruce hit this issue on the head. First you have to ask yourself what is white. There is no single, homogeneous white standard for behavior, dress, business style etc etc etc on this planet.Ask the French if they think they are like the Americans, or the Jews if they are like the Irish. So the premise of the question is flawed. Only someone who defines themselves as “not white” would struggle with understanding that. I am white by a “non-white’s” definition. By my own definition I am a person, a human being. To succeed, in a desired goal I know I must adapt myself in many ways to the path or process that leads to the accomplishment of that goal. It has nothing to do with race or nationality, gender or birth culture. If having money is the goal then I must play the game by the established rules or create a new game. One or the other.

    The question reads as if it is an insult to follow the lead of white people. I am always baffled by this. Notice where the flow of human kind migration. Are we rushing to the African desserts to have what they have? NO! Are we rushing to China or the MIddle east to live like they live? NO! Migration by rich and poor alike is toward the Europeanized cutlures where technology and market skills have brought afluence and luxury to the common person. So if people runn form a place the don’t like to a place that has what they want but they insist on acting the same way they did in the place they left …what do you suppose the new place will become??? But it’s not about white or black or any other skin color … it is about the willingness to do 100% of what is necessary to have the goal sought after.It doesn’t matter what kind of food you eat while you are doing it or what kind of clothes you wear or music you listen to. Just do what is necessary to have what you want then you will be what you are, successful at your goals.

  20. 20 Stephen
    April 14, 2008 at 15:12

    Here in the US Asians are often more successful and commit less crime than whites. And I don’t think it’s a matter of “acting white”, but rather just not acting dumb and burdening others. The last time I checked there were more blacks in prison than whites, so maybe they should act “more white”. But then again there are far less Asians in prison than whites. Should whites be acting Asian?

    Stephen in Sacramento

  21. 21 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 15:15

    If you notice people like Obama or Oprah Winfrey, they way they speak is determined by the audience. If speaking to mostly whites, they both will speak standard english. If they speak to black audiences, they’ll start speak with colloquial african american, with lots slang, an accent. I’ve noticed Hillary clinton does this too though, so it’s not really a racial thing. If she has a southern audience, she’ll start using a fake southern accent. It just shows how phoney these people are.

  22. 22 Julie
    April 14, 2008 at 15:24


    I am black and a woman – does that mean there are two strikes against me? I would hope not, but depending on where you are in the world, I DO have to compromise some of my culture for the sake of economic progression. I was raised to believe that a black person must accomplish twice as much as a white person to only succeed half as much. Yes, opportunities abound everywhere, no matter the racial ethnicity; however, there is a severe lack of solidarity in the black community (my apologies, but I can not speak for the Asian community), which when blacks go outside of their culture to achieve goals and look for opportunities outside of their social/economic/cultural background, they are labeled as sell-outs and traitors.

    Portland, Oregon, USA

  23. 23 Nick
    April 14, 2008 at 15:25

    I could not agree with GeorgeUSA and Bruce more. I don’t know why this is hard for people to understand. The language of business does not see color. While living and working in Taiwan, I was expected to be professional, just like I am in the USA. I didn’t have any problems with it. If I went to a company, acting like a pompous loud mouthed american, then I would be sent packing. White people are forced to make these changes in the work place just as black and asian people are. I don’t want to wear a suit and tie to work, but I don’t want to work with anyone who comes in wearing Frank Zappa or Fubu T-shirts either. When you come to work, you need to be professional, regardless of your skin color. If you feel like you’re losing your culture by participating in the world of business, then you’ll never succeed.

  24. 24 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 15:26


    “Asian” is “British” for Indian/Pakistani, not Asian. I believe they would use the non PC term “oriental” for what we would call “Asian”

  25. 25 Muthee Mwangi
    April 14, 2008 at 15:29

    Hi Ros and rest of the team.

    My opinion is short. Be who you really are no matter what and a person who impersonates another is a second hander.

  26. 26 Bright
    April 14, 2008 at 15:39

    Do white people have to behave like Blacks and Asians in order to succeed? No. Blacks and Asians do not have to aspire “becoming White”
    in order to succeed. But the problem is the very idea of success as planted in the cultural psyche of Blacks and Asians through the carefully crafted process of imperial education. Imerialism / Colonialism was (and remains) the conquest of the mind and soul. We just have to understand that thinking that we can succeed by “becoming White” is a consequence of something that has happened to us. Such people need to be re-educated. I DON’T like calling them names, I pity them — although I know that name-calling is a way of behaviour correction in African culture.

    Bright Molande

  27. 27 Nick
    April 14, 2008 at 15:41

    I would like to know what specific sacrifices people like Chimezie or Phillip have had to make to adapt to white culture. Are there specific values that you’ve had to sacrifice to be successful? What parts of your culture do you think the professional world should have to accept.

  28. April 14, 2008 at 15:43

    I think we need to first define what WHITE BEHAVIOUR is all about.If its about clothing , socail gathrings and the way we spend our income, then I think we need not to compare the two categoires.
    Lets try to refocus the debate to be somewhere, please because if its about behaviour, I wouldnt behave like the Caucasians(or white?) I dont see the difference.However, if its about Education, I think we need to have something in common and we can copy each other.

  29. April 14, 2008 at 15:44

    Dividing races by stereotypes like ‘the way they act’ helps perpetuate the problem of racism and profiling.
    Some hurtful stereotypes that continue to harm racial harmony are (very often through comedians of all races):

    Whites = conservative, skittish, geeky, obnoxiously well-spoken, often times crazy
    Blacks = act ‘ghetto’, poor, all speak ebonics

    Im sure one could go on and on with the harmful stereotypes of how certain races act.

    I cannot tell you how sick it makes me when black friends I have get made fun of for being ‘white’, not only by whites, but by their black peers, simply because they are well spoken or do not line up with common harmful ‘black’ stereotypes.

    That said, you do not have to act ‘white’ to succeed, but you do have to act in some accordance with societal norms accepted by all cultures within that society. That means being respectful, well spoken, intelligent, etc.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  30. April 14, 2008 at 15:45

    Hi Ros and the team!

    I think the question should be what does being “white” mean. Are all “whites” educated? NO. I am a Sierra Leonean living and working in the US. I certainly don’t act “white” I’m just educated. Unfortunately there are people in the black community in the United States and in Africa that think being educated is acting white. The problem lies within the uneducated demographic of that minority group.

  31. 31 Nick
    April 14, 2008 at 15:50

    Julie, the thought of accomplishing twice as much to receive half the pay doesn’t make sense to me. In any company I’ve ever worked for, you get paid what you’re worth. If you think you’re doing twice the work as everyone and getting paid half as much, then go tell your boss, “I’m leaving unless I get paid properly”. If you’re worth it, you’ll get that money, if not, then maybe you’re not working quite as hard as you think you are. The culture of business is profit, that’s all, no secrets. If you’re making money for me, you’ll get paid.

  32. April 14, 2008 at 15:51

    But Steve, the issue of the pervasiveness of a particular standard or set of standards which govern the idea of progress as it is played out in human society cannot be overlooked; that is, in terms of the origins of some of these ideas. The commonly accepted notion of civilisation in current usage, therefore, has built within it some ethnic markers which are unmistakably “white”. This is to the extent that there seems little, if any, focus on some of the characteristics which make us different from this ideal.

    For instance, I have found that bringing up a subject like this among some friends in Jamaica can sometimes cause offence to the extent that you will either be ignored or verbally attacked for focussing too much on these ‘differences’. This is because the society is largely seen as black. Consequently, there is an equivalent blindess (?) in terms of understanding how race and racial politics have, over time, influenced our values in certan social classes and across certain societies. That does not mean that all ‘upper class’ people are white, or that all white values (whatever these are) necessarilly sqaure with an uptown reality.

    The most obvious example I can think of, is the very offensive “white trash” designation as a way of othering some (white) people who do not fit into the normative ideals of civility and respectability likened to the group. Whereas, there is not necessarilly an equivalent designation amongst blacks; perhaps, of course, with the exception of terms like “ghetto” as a way making/marking the distinctions between different ideals of blackness, in this regard.

    The reality is that, it is perhaps just as offensive to see all white people as the same as much as it is to see all other people as constituting a homogeneous collective. In truth, we do not see all people as necessarilly equally deserving of respect and therein lies the problem – difference, whether of skin colour, accents, style of dress or other types of self expression which do not fit in the majoritarian defintions of “normal” usually elicits negative responses. We must work at overcoming such impediments to communication both within and across cultures, as a result.

    In this context Civilisation, as a discourse and value to which many aspire is unmistakably European, in many respects, and therefore, “white”. This is to the extent that those things considered as a civilised come with certain in built prejudices of normativity. Whether all Europeans are white, or all white people are the same is not the issue. Progress as it is configured in the collective imagination takes its cues from those who lead. In this instance, the leaders/ arbiters of world power are primarily, white societies – plain and simple!

  33. 33 primal convoy in Japan
    April 14, 2008 at 15:54

    Firstly, I think it is important to define “Asian” as either the UK term, meaning “Indian, Pakistani, etc” or the American term meaning “Chinese, Japanese, etc”.

    Otherwise, the original question should be “Should non-whites have to act ‘white’ in order to achieve?” or something similar.

    One interesting note: Over here in Japan (home of rigid conformity), if you don’t act “Japanese”, then it’s very difficult to get anywhere in life.

    Another is that my gf, who herself is an “African American”, has said that some of her black male countrymen have complained about having to “act white” to get anywhere and quite frankly she has been sick of hearing it. However, I will cease to add too much from her point of view as she is not posting here to defend what I’m putting in her mouth, sotospeak.

  34. 34 Rob Gifford, US
    April 14, 2008 at 15:57

    The whole premise of this debate is misguided.

    Thinking this way is just lazy and divisive.

    What exactly is ‘behaving like a white person’?

    Culture and social background are much more important than race in shaping peoples behaviour.

    The examples you give only illustrate how the social, historical and cultural associations of race in different parts of the world lead people to see behavior in racial terms.

  35. April 14, 2008 at 16:02

    More definition of what attributes constitute blackness, asianess, and whitness are required. The bottom line is this. we are social animals who take what we know from past experiences and apply tome to current situations.

    I am a white male. I have worked many jobs that varied from dirty foundry, factories, to construction, and to an engineering office. Each situation required me to act, dress and talk in a different fashion. One place I worked was employed by 3/4ths ex-convicts. If I showed up there in a suit and tie everyday, spoke queens English, and invited them over to my house to listen to a classical music recital, I not only would not have been successful, but I probably would have had to defend myself in the parking lot. I learned to talk the talk, and most importantly to those guys was that you hold up your end of the work load.

    On the other hand, if had showed up to an engineering or IT interview with my shoulder length hair let down (a disadvantage anyway, but “hippies” are not considered to be a discriminated minority group.) and a “wife beater” shirt, and a pair of jeans that showed my butt crack, I most certainly would not have gotten the job. If I had showed up to work that way, I would not have advanced either. I defiantly wouldn’t have if I started speaking Ebonics, street lingo, or hell Spanish for that fact. I needed to be able to communicate my abilities in order to achieve success.

    When I took my first factory job, It had only been a month before I sought the advice of a college advisor. She asked me what I would like to go to school for. I told her I wanted to wear a suit and tie. She looked at me crossways and asked what I meant. I told her I had worked at a local factory on 3rd shift. Every morning these guys with suits and ties come in, walk through the shop, and go back to an air-conditioned office. There is no way they are working harder then me, and I guarantee they are making double if not more of what I make. I want to be one of them.

    IF you want to change what it looks like to be successful, you need to do it from a leadership position. Or you can just change the concept of what success means to you.

  36. 36 John in Salem
    April 14, 2008 at 16:03

    No, they don’t have to behave white to succeed – they only have to SOUND white.

  37. 37 Anthony
    April 14, 2008 at 16:11

    They just need to bahave how the people who generate the most business/money do. That just happends to be whites at the moment. This has been around so long, that it has become the standard for business.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  38. 38 VictorK
    April 14, 2008 at 16:12

    I think that the use of the word ‘white’ causes more confusion and emotion than is necessary.

    We are not talking about race. Nobody dreams that acting more like Serbs or Albanians would do blacks and Asians any good. ‘White’ in this context refers to certain civilisational standards and cultural norms that characterise the leading countries of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and North America, but particularly the nations of the Anglo-sphere.

    It is in this sense that the Japanese, in the Nineteenth century, decided as a matter of policy that they needed to ‘act white’, i.e. to emulate the scientific, organisational, and to some extent social achievements of the Western world. Japan’s position in the world today is a direct consequence of a determined and systematic effort to ‘act white.’ And there is nothing wrong in imitating the best and highest standards in whatever field, even when those standards are largely to be found in the Western world. The problem arises when the people who need to do the imitating (Africans, African-Americans and Muslims in particular – Indians are very successfully following the Western model already) also happen to have a deep hostility – close to being racist – to the civilisation that they need to imitate. That’s the complication.

    China may not say so but it is also ‘acting white,’ at least when it comes to science and technology, even to the extent of constantly attempting to steal technological secrets from the USA.

    No country that wishes to be developed and successful can avoid ‘acting white’ since the only model for the success they apsire to is to be found in Western civilisation or in the successful imitators of Western civilisation such as China and Japan.

    ‘Acting white’ in this broader sense simply means valuing efficiency, competence, effort, discipline, and organisation. Many countries are far from possessing these virtues, and their fruits, and they could not do worse than to ‘act white’. The whole ‘oreo’ thing is nonsensical, unless one argues that efficiency, competence, effort, discipline and organisation reflect not culture but DNA, and that these are things that certain races can never attain by virtue of their not being white. That position is a pretty monstrous instance of racism, I think.

    And that ‘acting white’ is not a racial thing is borne out by the fact that the country that has most successfully acted white, Japan, still retains its distinct cultural and social identity. ‘Acting white’ and ‘being yourself’ are perfectly compatible. Only people who are alienated from or discontented with the identity that they have, or who simply dislike whites (like African-Americans or South Africa’s liberal black elite) are afraid that ‘acting white’ means becoming imitation white men.

    The bottom-line is that there is only one successful civilisation in the world today, that of the West, and there can be no material progress without imitating the achievements of that civilisation. If you wish to call that ‘acting white’, very well. But it doesn’t change the fact that Western standards are the norm and not only is there no other civilisation that can offer rival standards, there is no other civilisation at all.

  39. 39 Farsue A.B. Donzo
    April 14, 2008 at 16:14

    Hi Ros
    African and Asia will try to become a white to success but at last they always
    fail.Typical example is Michael Jackson.
    He is not black nor white now.

  40. 40 Kwabena
    April 14, 2008 at 16:19

    The biggest mistake the black man ever made is trusting the whiteman.
    The british have so much gold reserves because they colonised some african people under the pretext of trading with them, oppressed them, stole their gold and shipped them into slavery. South africans were treated with much less dignity than white owned pets during apartheid, western white states have supported oppressive black regimes because of their selfish interests,thinks of british support for Mobutu in his early years and the support he received from belgium to slay lumumba.
    Palestinians are blockaded in gaza and the US vigorously refuse to condemn it. And i cant even think straight when i remember the US public health service sponsored tuskegee syphilis experiment. The white man is successful because he is cruel and a cheat. They may look like heroes today trying to help blacks but the root cause of the underdevelopment of africa is in the actions and inactions of the whiteman.
    Kwabena in Ghana

  41. April 14, 2008 at 16:25

    Rob, while you are entitled to your opinion, I can’t agree that the debate is misguided. Insofar as it offers an open forum in which to raise issues of this nature, it may also lead to problems; that is, if we are not aware of what we are talking about. So, no it is not lazy or divisive.

    I would submit that it is simply asking, I think, for us to think about as well as examine our various definitions of ‘progress’, and to see whether these are founded in political systems which have as part of their genesis ideas of similarity structured around politically accepted conventions of race and identity which we may wish to question. As to whether that constitutes a case for being misguided, I would very much like to defer.

  42. 42 Dora
    April 14, 2008 at 16:41

    You have got to be kidding me, an entire race all behaving the same way!
    So an English person and a Russian or a Norwegian and a Greek all act ‘white’.
    Statements like these really really depress me, race in the black/white sense is ridiculous.
    The world cannot be split up like this.
    I fear that this is a red herring being used to cloud the real problems which in my view are socio-economic and educational inequalities both at a local national level and on a global scale ie the haves and the havenots and the constant stuggle between the two.
    The haves wanting to maintain what they have and the havenots wanting to increase their standing, capitalism in essence.

  43. 43 Andrew
    April 14, 2008 at 16:53

    Perhaps people regardless of their colour should just be more concerned about being true to themselves and using their own initiative and talent to get on with what they are involved in and less about what they perceive others are judging them on. By that I mean if they are in a situation whereby their colour is an issue, then nothing will change that. If your firm or colleagues do not like you on that basis nothing short of a fundamental change in thinking will alter this and there is no point in waiting for that to occur. If you show to anyone around you that you are competent and capable then that will inevitably show through over anything. A reasonable company will see that to have a positive asset in their organisation is ultimately better for them than any other bias. But by making colour an issue when perhaps there wasn’t one will just start it up on its own and create problems where none may have existed by labouring this point. Besides which I don’t see that it is always the case that white people are the ultimate role model and behaving like white people might simply be seen as either insensitive or insincere. You can’t be another person can you?



  44. 44 Nick
    April 14, 2008 at 16:55

    Victor K, is right on the money. Kwabena in Ghana is right by saying that injustices have been done, but the question does not pertain to the Tuskegee experiments, which ended in 1972. There are bad people out there. Those doctors were bad people, but they don’t represent the white race any more than the Ying Yang twins represent the black race. To hang on to these things, is useless. If one race refuses to move forward, then they will never improve their own situation.

  45. 45 Julie
    April 14, 2008 at 17:13

    Well then Nick, it is a known fact that women in this country make some 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Mind you that is an example of injustices that occur in the culture of business. I apologize but I do not have statistics available as far as race is concerned.

    I appreciate that you are so fair minded, though a bit naive about the ways of business. The culture of business IS profit, but it is a culture that has been propagated by a dominant culture that does not allow for many differences or individuality.

    Portland, Oregon

  46. 46 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 17:23

    @ Julie

    I realize this is off topic, but the wage gap is a myth:


    Click to access ba392.pdf

    It results from women choosing lower paid professions like teaching, and working fewer hours, or not working at all. Very few men can be “stay at home dads”, and having no income affects the median income. Many women simply don’t work, so they have no income. That’s their choice. But perpetuating a myth is wrong. Being a professional victim doesn’t pay very well, all groups that do this really need to stop.

  47. 47 John LaGrua/New York
    April 14, 2008 at 17:26

    Success as defined in the West is a combination of enlightened intelligence and material industry.A tradition of education and adaptability have give the West enormous capacity for individual growth,when fostered in a free environment..Asia is increasingly demonstrating its ability to assimilate Western values without losng its cultural identity.China ,Japan and India will continue to exert world influence and the West will benfit from adopting those cultural attitudes that enhance growth in a broad spectrum ,spiritual ,philosophical .Ancient cultures can revitalize the modern West.Africans have yet ti demonstrate a cutural adaptabitity ,it may be that the colonial experience has yet to be distilled discarding old resntments and using the beneficial aspects of that period .Poor governence ,lack of education and respect for it seem to be a drag on black progress in Africa and the US.

  48. 48 Chris B
    April 14, 2008 at 17:42

    What? I am supposed to behave in a “white-way” nobody gave me the instructions! Damn I have been faking it for 41 years now….Don’t tell the blacks or Asians!

    Chris B Los Angeles

  49. April 14, 2008 at 17:48

    Ros, first off, thanks for opening up this ‘Pandora’s box’! (LOL!) The postings so far have been insightful, to say the least. The reality is that, as I noted at the start, this subject has all the potentials to elicit negative if not misunderstood responses, largely, for one reason – we are not very accustomed to thinking through our own sense of privilege/ entitlement. This is especially where such privilege is taken for granted and/ or it may be connected to other peoples’ lack of privilege, as seems the inference here.

    “Whiteness” in the context herein is, inter alia, both an indication of privilege and civility to the extent that “blackness” and “Asianess” are, implicitly, seen as opposites. Hence, the desire to “act white” as a means of achieving/ embodying these ideas in the modern context is at once a rejection of the elements of these identities which are seen as backward and an embrace of those elements of “whiteness” seen, largely, as progressive and, therefore, right.

    It, of course, does not follow that the reverse is also true; that is, “whiteness” is antithetical to progress, if for any other reason that by throwing two non-white categories into the debate you have also forced us to consider what each of these other labels really mean and, therefore, to indirectly critique “whiteness”.

    I think that VictorK says it best in terms of the efforts to define “acting white” and, by extension, “whiteness”, though I am not so sure I am fully comfortable with, or totally understand his parenthetical comments in reference to African-Americans or members of the black elite in South Africa. Perhaps a clarification would be useful?

    While, it is ‘natural’ to not want to upset the gravy train (too much!), it is also ‘natural’ to be curious to the extent the often difficult questions are sometimes asked. I am not sure if this discussion was, necessarilly, ever about imitating others or seeking out a problem where none existed. Rather, to invite consideration of what ideas constitute “whiteness”, “blackness” and all the other permutations in between; and, to determine the extent to which these are founded in notions of similarity surrounding race as political power. How much of what we regard as ‘progress’ or ‘civilisation’ is really about ‘white privilege’ and, too, what is essentially wrong if that is the case? Something to think about, I am sure.

  50. 50 Julie
    April 14, 2008 at 17:51

    @ Steve,

    I thank you for the correction, and it is duly noted. And I agree with you that perpetuating a myth is wrong. However, as groups that portray themselves as “professional victims” (your words) need to stop, so do those groups that frown on individuality and self expression, and sanitizing the business world.


    Portland, Oregon

  51. 51 Devadas
    April 14, 2008 at 17:55

    I have to just say this rather than copy whites to succeed the asians and blacks have to look back in the 70s how bob marly ,the rastafarian singer and Vivian Richards singlehandedly put their identity of whom they are before the world and became the messiahs of pan afrikanism which promted derek walcott to write in his poem AIR” there is nothing between this rocky ridges and blacksea ..yet some are game enough to dare to find coral reefs out of it the best exponents were richards and bob marley who united different islands into one called westindies through their singing and cricket. I have to say just this for this debate asians be asians and blacks be blacks and rectify negatives within to face this world square on rather than copy the whites. That’s the message of gramaswaraj of mahathma gandhi as a means for self identity for India Gandhi proffessed.

    Devadas in Kerala

  52. 52 Andrew
    April 14, 2008 at 17:55

    Perhaps people regardless of their colour should just be more concerned about being true to themselves and using their own initiative and talent to get on with what they are involved in and less about what they perceive others are judging them on. By that I mean if they are in a situation whereby their colour is an issue, then nothing will change that. If your firm or colleagues do not like you on that basis nothing short of a fundamental change in thinking will alter this and there is no point in waiting for that to occur. If you show to anyone around you that you are competent and capable then that will inevitably show through over anything. A reasonable company will see that to have a positive asset in their organisation is ultimately better for them than any other bias. But by making colour an issue when perhaps there wasn’t one will just start it up on its own and create problems where none may have existed by labouring this point. Besides which I don’t see that it is always the case that white people are the ultimate role model and behaving like white people might simply be seen as either insensitive or insincere. You can’t be another person can you?



  53. 53 Daniel
    April 14, 2008 at 17:56

    If we all have to say the truth, there is nothing life black, Asian and white behavior. No matter how clever human is , he or she will have sometimes in life that things will go wrong. What example has Paul Wolfowitz the former world bank chairman set, his brother
    the former governor of New York who spent millions of $ in chasing prostitute, what can we say about Adolph Hitler and those military boy that are raping Iraqi
    girls. Maybe been white make us to be free of all our wrong doings! The story was the Jewish in the 30s and today the music has changed to the blacks and Asians. The stone casted away by the builders in the 30s is now the corner stone. Change, maybe we have to learn from this.

    Daniel from China

  54. 54 Mohammed
    April 14, 2008 at 17:57

    I think we are one people but different colors. It is inferiority complex that has artificially created undue racial discriminations (Such as us and them) and make people stereotypically naïve to development and success; and that is why most people feel the whites have succeeded so they have to behave white to succeed.


  55. 55 John and Linda
    April 14, 2008 at 17:57

    We are a black and Asian couple. We believe the answer is “yes”. However, even if the minority does act, dress, and accept white morality, they are only marginally accepted. White people will “white wash” the accepted minority person. That is they tend to overlook our race and talk badly about our races to us.

    John and Linda

  56. 56 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 17:57

    @ Julie

    What kind of indivuality and self expression are you referring to in the business world? Not really sure what you mean by that.

  57. 57 Jason
    April 14, 2008 at 17:58

    Blacks and Asians do not have to behave like white people to succeed. They simply have to behave civilized. Most white people act civilized. It is racial stereotyping to imply that only white people act civilized. One could easily say that Blacks and Asians need to act like Japanese or (South) Koreans instead. Chinese people obviously don’t act ‘white’ but they are evolving into a complex civilization because they are not going around genociding eachother. A good example is the Tibet situation. Tibet and Darfur could be identical problems but the reason they are not is because Chinese are not doing the looting/pillaging/burning/raping that is all too common in Africa.


  58. 58 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 18:02

    @ John And Linda

    “White people will “white wash” the accepted minority person. That is they tend to overlook our race and talk badly about our races to us.”

    Way to make a mass generalization. You’ve met every white person and know they all do this? Are you free from doing anything like that, you’re absolutley not a racist, but white people all are? Do you mind if I make some mass generalization about blacks and asians? Or can only you do that about other groups?

  59. 59 Chuck Paugh
    April 14, 2008 at 18:04

    The definition of success is a personal perception not a quantifiable fact.

    Non-Caucasian individuals who feel that they need to go above and beyond the number of accomplishments attained by white counterparts to be successful are suffering from their own psychological inadequacies.

    These individuals don’t need to work harder to be successful; instead, they need to deal with the mental and emotional problems in their lives that make them feel inadequate with a licensed psychologist.

  60. 60 Scott via email
    April 14, 2008 at 18:07

    I going with the dominant culture argument on this one. If a particular feature dominates the culture and makes up the rules, then I would expect that people who follow or imitate the dominant culture are going to be successful, or more successful than the group that ignores the rules. One of the maddening features of “white” culture, both here in the United States and in parts of the world that have been colonized, is that the whites deliberately set up a rule structure that would exclude blacks, Asians and other groups from being successful, while at the same time proclaiming that if these groups would follow the “rules” then they would be accepted and successful. You can’t have both.

  61. 61 CarlosK
    April 14, 2008 at 18:09

    Hi All

    Do blacks and Asians have to behave like white people to succeed? A resounding no!

    What are “white people” succeeding at? Lets be careful because we are opening a can of worms here. Because people “succeed” in both positive and negative ways.

    Firstly, white people led by George W. Bush USA, Tony Blair England, Canada etc. have disgraced themselves in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine etc. We are on the verge of world war 3 because white people thought they are the panacea and have the answers to the world’s problems. But the results are self-evident because the world has never been more dangerous in history and this is all because a white man George W. Bush thought the solution to the worlds problem was to impose his brand of “democracy” on the world.

    Secondly, white people were not awarded the PATENT for behaving courteously, speaking properly, being confident/self-assured, working hard, displaying creativity and ingenuity, working together as a team etc. These are all basic protestant christian values. So instead of white people taking credit for their apparent economic success , they should rightly give thanks to God who gave mankind the Bibile and the Christian Faith. If it was not for Christianity, white people would be in the same position as most Africans, Asians, Middleeasterners etc. economically deprived.

    Lets us therefore place things in there proper perspective and give credit where credit is due. White people should be thankful for Christianity but because they are so ungrateful, God is taking away the blessing from them and giving it to the
    Asians and Africans and others. Lets us not encourage white people in there presumptiveness.

    Finally, it may not be self-evident that material success has nothing to do with colour becuase almost all the very successful and prominent people of the world are white but the real reasons for the success are stick-to-it-tiveness and a right attitude. Every black man or woman or person of colour in this world has had a rags to riches story or background. None of them inherited “old money”. They adopted protestant christian values of hardwork and became a success also, just like white people.

    Carlos, Kingston-Jamaica.

  62. 62 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 18:10


    Very interesting story not on “Acting” a way, but what your actual name is. It’s possibly a cultural thing that might get you discriminated against based upon a stereotype if you have a certain name, you aren’t educated.

  63. 63 Gavin
    April 14, 2008 at 18:12

    Oh please. Let’s not blame “whitey” here! Blacks & Asians have to sacrifice culture to get along in business ? I don’t know. Perhaps so they should.


  64. 64 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 18:14

    “Acting white” best exemplified by “Steve Urkel” in the show Family Matters.

  65. 65 Nancy
    April 14, 2008 at 18:15

    I am a white woman working in the USA. I behave differently at work than at home or with friends. Is behaving in a buisniess like, professional manner related to any ethnicity?

    I am more controlled at work. I try to be more even tempered and less out-spoken at work. I consciencly focus on proper english usage and less slang, even in casual conversations at work.

    Is profesional behavior owned by any particular race?

  66. 66 Robert
    April 14, 2008 at 18:15

    What a simple comment. You need to act like a business person. If you are working a trade show with your DC’s (urban shoes) on, and pants around your thighs so your briefs are showing—good buy, your fired. Many problems with the urban culture is if you can’t sell albums to your neighbors there are not other jobs to prosperity. Do your drugs, and slander anyone else in your hood trying to do better for themselves and family.


  67. 67 Amadu
    April 14, 2008 at 18:16

    Common guys,it’s all about being rich and successful,to prove my point,come over to China and see white Americans and Britons trying to behave eat and act like the Chinese. Isn’t it ironic?

    Amadu in Shanghai

  68. April 14, 2008 at 18:16

    There is a saying that goes…when in Rome. Every place has it’s cultural etiquette whether it’s the workplace or the bar. Adapting to the environment ones in is both necessary and unavoidable.

  69. 69 Carrie
    April 14, 2008 at 18:16

    I’m eurasian- half Chinese and half white- and I have found a great advantage by being at least part Asian in the field of acupuncture. It gives me perceived authenticity as well as an opportunity to cultivate my cultural lineage.


  70. 70 Joey
    April 14, 2008 at 18:18


    Arsene Wenger says the key to Ronaldo’s phenomenol success in England this year is because of his combination of style and efficiency.

    Obviously the frenchman is aware of an English sense of style and good one on him for recognizing the Man United winger for it.

    Every country might be different though…although they would all love to have the prolific Portuguese man kicking the ball around.

    Joey, Colorado, USA

  71. 71 Steve
    April 14, 2008 at 18:20

    I am a uccessful black businessman in the USA for the last 10 years.

    I dont think this is about behaving ‘white’.

    I have to say I dont think that people who are not black or asian realize the reality of how race still plays in the workplace.

    I work nearly 100% on the internet and interestingly I have had the in the environment where my business partners and colleagues have been unaware of my color.

    In circumstances where I have met a non-black in person in business I can easily say that 70-80% of these experiences have resulting in different or altered (usually negative) outcome. I can honestly say only about 20% of people I have met in person in this situation have been color-blind and accepted my professional abilities at face value.

    In todays reality, if you do work in person among people who are not of color, you must accept obstacles or work harder if you want to maintain or exceed the level of success of people who are not of color.

  72. 72 Thomas
    April 14, 2008 at 18:21

    My co-worker grew up in a Cambodian family. She sits in the section right next to me and she acts like everyone else in our office. She heard me listening to this program and asked me what it meant to act white. I didn’t know what to say, we are both confused. I grew up in a Polish family but I act like everyone else in my office as well. Am I acting white too, or is that not possible since I am white?

    Thomas in Los Angeles

  73. 73 K MJUMBE
    April 14, 2008 at 18:21

    the problem is a fallacy of so-called diversity. in one’s goal post for “success” is measured by a euro-american paradigm then anyone who wishes to achieve such “success” must subscribe and “act” as passing to be deemed acceptable to the catering of the “white” euro-american paradigm.

    There is no diversity when every one of any race and any colour is supporting and sustaining just “euro-american” ideals and concepts. That said: any asian or african who wishes to function and achieve the euro-american standard of “success” barring the music and sports fields is always leading a double or triple life suppressing their innate cultures and values and adapting those of the “other” to such an extent that they over compensate and need to become mega-super euro-americancentric in order to be perceived as acceptable within the “white’ norm.

    The fallacy of that is africans and asians [and some women too] are never conceived of as having made the standard no matter what they do.

    So, what is your value of success — money power over others what really is success?

  74. April 14, 2008 at 18:22

    It seems that in South Africa where black used to include Asian and mixed race South Africans, now it is more exclusive. Just African.

    As an example see the reaction of Mr. Stofile when he was not elected the head of the South African Rugby Union. Mr. Stofile claimed there was no place for blacks in SA rugby, although the incumbent chairman and his opponent is coloured.

  75. 75 Nancy
    April 14, 2008 at 18:22

    Even as a white woman, I experience pressure to adapt to the majority culture when I step outside my door. If I don’t dress a certain way, or talk or behave a certain way, I am treated less well and even am in danger of losing my job. It’s about adapting to the powers that be — it’s not particularly about race, but about adapting to the culture of those in power.


  76. 76 Venessa
    April 14, 2008 at 18:22

    What constitutes “acting white.”

    “Dividing races by stereotypes like ‘the way they act’ helps perpetuate the problem of racism and profiling.”

    Kudos to Brett; well put.

    I guess I have to act like a man to succeed in the business world so I’m a sell out too….

    Also statistically Asian women make more than white and black women. Do I need to be “act Asian” to increase my salary?


    Portland, OR

  77. 77 Phil Yates
    April 14, 2008 at 18:23

    From my experience in the USA, in business and personal life, it has always been an issue. I was blessed enough to go to a private school. I was taught early about speaking articulately and manners. When it comes to trying to get a job in the “white collar” world, as a black male, I cannot wear my hairstyle anything but low. I must not allow as much emotion to show on my face when interacting with my “white” co-workers because of their own fear & interpretations about what I’m thinking which they believe is usually “mad” when in actuality I’m just concentrating on the issues 90% of the time. I’ve actually been pulled aside and asked if I could not be so intense. I believe in speaking proper english, I love many cultures and music. I have friends of many races, and even with some of them I’ve had to explain certain reactions that are misinterpreted. On the other side, most of my time in black public schools, most black kids who hear me speak or hear something I’m listening to that’s not RAP or R&B believe I’m “talking or acting white” To the whites I say: “look at someone as they are “in the moment” and not what you were taught or the negatives you’ve seen” To the blacks I say: Speaking correct English is not “selling out”! Opening your mind to new ideas, friends, food, etc. can only ENRICH your life as long as you never forget who you are!! Both sides need to really re-evaluate their ideas of TRUTH and LOVE!! It’s not that hard!! Stop trying to fit into the stereotypes put forth by society!!

  78. 78 Casandra in the USA
    April 14, 2008 at 18:23

    I change when I walk into work, too. I choose my words and my clothing very carefully, and act with the most responsibility. I am 22 and do not want to be seen as young, irrisponsible, apathetic, etc. Am I white, acting white? Or perhaps am I a fallable human attempting to represent my best self in the workplace rather than who I represent to my friends?

  79. 79 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 18:23


    In cities like Detroit, the high school graduation rate is less than 30%. Unfortunately, many in the black community shun education, and consider it “being white”. We need more Bill Cosbys to speak out against this. Back in middle school, my neighbor was black, we were best of friends outside of school, but at school, he didn’t want any of his black friends seeing him hanging with a white guy. We wouldn’t even talk or acknowledge each other at school, but as soon as we got off the bus we’d start talking and I’d go to his house and play Nintendo and toss a football around.

  80. 80 Cali R.
    April 14, 2008 at 18:24

    What the heck is a Jack and Jill club in the UK? It is the name of a sex club in the USA. Please, less British slang! We can’t answer your question if you use British slang.

    Cali R.
    Beaverton, Oregon

  81. 81 Scott
    April 14, 2008 at 18:26

    This has nothing to do with race, the lack of philosophical intelligence that sparks this kind of discussion is criminal! White people happen to have been at the center of the world’s economic success. It could be any race in this position. In order to do business with a client you try and relate to them and their culture. There is no deleterious motivation in this – it is just plain obvious! Many white people don’t act “white” either. There are many poor white folks who use street talk and don’t dress like professionals. Additionally, the world is becoming ever more global and all cultures are becoming slowly homogenized – white included.

    Portland, Oregon

  82. 82 Chen
    April 14, 2008 at 18:26

    Living in a foreign or new culture can cause different reactions from people. From my observations, there are 3 types of common reactions.
    One reaction is the thought “I have to adopt everything in this new culture and abandon everything of my own culture in order to ‘become mainstream’ and succeed.” Those people often try so hard to look, speak, act like an “imagined” typical white person or a “mainstream American or British,” except, they cannot change their skin colors. However, those people don’t realize imitation is not creation. A person who denies his own past and wants to look like someone else does not respect himself. A person without self-respect will not get respect from others. I would dare to say the “white” people, who are being imitated, may be “fond” of him, but will never look at the imitator as an equal.
    The opposite reaction is when a person refuses to accept and adopt any part of the new culture and society and retreats to the culture where he came from. They refuse to change even in smallest details. In this case, those people are loosing a great opportunity to improve and become a better human being that the new society offers them.

    A third way a is to have the best of both worlds. The person realizes that he should critically examine both cultures and distill the best form both. He will not indiscriminately reject his own culture, and he will not indiscriminately adopt everything the new culture offers. He gets a deeper understanding of the bad and good of his own culture, at the same time, he sees the jewels and junks in the new society. He retains the good part of the culture where he came from, while learning the best part of the new culture he is in now. He makes conscious efforts to adjust to certain social customs in the new society he is living in, such as shake hands instead of bowing. At the same time, he retains the foundation of his own culture inside him, and builds on that foundation a better human being, using the good and valuable from the new culture. That person conveys the sense of a person with pride and self-respect, and gets respect from others.

    All cultures and societies have something to offer a person, and the issue is the person has to discriminate among what a culture offers and to make his intelligent choice.

  83. 83 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 18:26

    @ Nancy

    At work, it’s always best to just be quiet, do what you’re told, and don’t rock the boat. It’s not the place to be an indivual, it’s not a place to speak your mind, it’s not a place to find dates, you are there to work. You have to be a different person at work than you are outside of work if you want to keep your job. Remember, you are constantly evaluated at work. Even if it were an outting at a restuarant, you are still being evaluated. Hence this is why with my job I work to live, rather than live to work. I do my time and then I’m gone, and don’t think about it until the next day.

  84. 84 Wessel
    April 14, 2008 at 18:27

    It seems that in South Africa where black used to include Asian and mixed race South Africans, now it is more exclusive. Just African. As an example see the reaction of Mr. Stofile when he was not elected the head of the South African Rugby Union. Mr. Stofile claimed there was no place for blacks in SA rugby, although the incumbent chairman and his opponent is coloured (mixed race).

    Wessel in South Africa

  85. April 14, 2008 at 18:30

    If you run a business dealing with the public……..employees really do have to deal with customers using customary MANNERS and STYLE.

    These things are not “WHITE”, but rather they are standard methods of dealing with people in the broad Western culture.

    Bill Cosby, (the wonderful black comedian and actor), who I greatly admire, as a decent and worthwhile citizen of the world, says he cannot deal with Black people who cannot speak English and operate in a society that really does require a certain comfort and universal code of conduct, that reflects on the overall culture. Speaking English and enjoying a basic education is needed in order to slide into and become a productive, happy and contributing member of this society.

    Speaking a language of slang, gargan and obnoxious behavior devoid of family given moral code, that only gang members understand; does not bode well for being accepted into the overall culture.

    Asians seem to be reared by strong families. They generally learn the ropes, get the education, and ticket punching, that set up individuals well for making money, and ability to do well in the society.

    Race really does not have much to do with figuring out what is marketable and interesting, to then fit into a society where humor and interaction naturally flows in to the day to day world of a humming along society.


  86. 86 Albert
    April 14, 2008 at 18:31

    “Behaving like white people” is a misnomer. It’s “behaving like a successful, effective, and educated person” is more like it. Even white people who want to be understood, who want to be respected in the working world, have to conform to certain speaking, writing, and other behavioral norms. Anyone with a strong regional accent, for example, will come across as having lower education than someone with a more neutral accent. This is true for whites as well as anyone else. I find the concept of “acting white” to be defeatist and self destructive. There’s no reason why people from different cultures should follow a different set of social rules.

    Alexandria, Virginia, USA

  87. 87 Robert
    April 14, 2008 at 18:32

    This is a false dichotomy. By framing the question as BLACK vs WHITE you are ignoring the wide variety of cultures that are represented by people of both skin colors. You talk about blacks and asians that must compromise they’re values and behaviors in order to fit in and be successful. What about the hicks? Certainly a hick feels pressure to conform in a professional environment.

    Robert in the US

  88. 88 Steven
    April 14, 2008 at 18:32

    I realize this comment is a slightly different topic, however, I wish to pose a question of sexual orientation in the work place – do gays need to act straight in order to succeed on the job? I am Asian and gay.

    Steven in the US

  89. 89 Lynell
    April 14, 2008 at 18:33

    Though I do not personally belong to Jack and Jill, some frinds of mine do. Jack and Jill is an organization that gives middle- and upper-class black Americans the opportunity to have their children socialize with the same kind of children. There is a need for this due to 1) the fact that upper-class black are often isolated in all-white communities; or 2) in more inclusive communities, middle- and upper-class black parents don’t want their children to socialize w/ lower socio-economic black peers because of the bad influences that the richer children will be exposed to. The richer black parents want a peer group of similarly minded kids as friends their kids.

    Lynell in the US

  90. 90 Matt
    April 14, 2008 at 18:34

    There is a whole website dedicated to what white people like: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/.
    It’s very popular in Canada as much for its humour as for it’s accuracy – I think there is much to be said about social constructs around racial expectations, but not about race itself.

    Matt from Nova Scotia, Canada

  91. April 14, 2008 at 18:34

    John And Linda
    White people will “white wash” the accepted minority person. That is they tend to overlook our race and talk badly about our races to us.

    ……. Your kidding right? Can we throw “some” at the begining of that accusation? This type of stereotyping of white people negatively affects any sort of progress attempts made in the way of ridding the world of racism and bigotry.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  92. 92 TonyR
    April 14, 2008 at 18:35

    Two answers …one serious, one not so much.
    a) If you’re on the gold course, it helps to behave like my favorite black/asian to succeed. Go on, be a Tiger.
    b) If you’re anywhere else, it helps to remember there is a distinction between behaviour and performance. Excel at the latter, and you will enjoy freedom in the former. At law firm where I once worked was a pink-mohawked, punkish, lesbian secretary whom everyone adored not for her appearance, but for her ability to type over 200 words per minute and keeping ahead of everything and everyone.

  93. 93 Bill D
    April 14, 2008 at 18:37

    What about Oprah Winfrey, Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell? I think the reason they speak the way they do is because they have been educated and prefer to speak English correctly, not because they are acting white. It could be said that some white people in rural areas are not being white because of their heavy dialect. I believe it is more about being or appearing educated whether or not you make it in life.

    Bill D


  94. April 14, 2008 at 18:38

    I don’t think calling someone ‘dear’, or receiving that name has anything to do with the color of your skin…

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  95. 95 Simon
    April 14, 2008 at 18:39

    Hi Ros and WHYS crew,

    I live in Denver, CO. I am the son of a mexican immigrant father and a white american mother. My wife’s father is black and her mother is from Japan. We both consider ourselves uniquely American. Each person’s culture is the sum of our experience. Groing up in Utah, I attended majority white schools where I was the diversity in the community. I know that I feel well versed in the “white” tradition though not always comfortable. My feeling is that as long as you follow the established rules, any cultural community will let you participate. Success in the work and academic environment usually depends on how well you can imitate those above you: Most of the time those people in power (at least around me) are white.

  96. 96 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 18:39


    Unless your job deals with sex, sexuality has no business in the work place. It’s just too much of a risk for sexual harassment issues. I used to have an out of the closet lesbian coworker, and she would wear lesbian pins, would talk about her girlfriend, etc.. It really was unprofessional. At the workplace, everyone should just be asexual robots.

  97. 97 Jester
    April 14, 2008 at 18:39

    Why the coat and tie? It is not practical in many Asians or Africans countries, where the weather is hot and humid. Yet, Asians/Africans continue to make themselves uncomfortable in order to appear sophisticated.

    A dialogue between two Africans in a Senegalese movie highlighted the centuries long Asian/African identity crisis. Here’s a parapharase:

    Non-Whites have a choice, they can either behave like their colonial masters, or they can behave like colonial subjects. Neither is good.


  98. 98 VictorK
    April 14, 2008 at 18:41

    @ Agostinho: you wrote “… though I am not so sure I am fully comfortable with, or totally understand his parenthetical comments in reference to African-Americans or members of the black elite in South Africa. Perhaps a clarification would be useful?”

    Sure. I believe that people with a strong sense of identity needn’t be afraid of imitating those parts of other cultures that they think will benefit them. African-Americans, I think, have a confused sense of identity arising out of their general unwillingness to wholeheartedly identify themselves as ‘American’. That unwillingness, in turn, stems from the racist hostility that many African-Americans have towards America and to white Americans. The recent controversy over Barack Obama’s pastor and church epitomise this. Obama is a member of a racist church whose pastor hates America and hates whites. And Obama saw nothing wrong with this until it got into the media, just as few other African-Americans would have been able to see anything wrong with the pastor or the church. And this feeds into the reason why so many African-Americans have a problem with ‘acting white’: they equate it with acting like one of the enemy. Collective hostility towards whites has become part of African-American identity.

    South Africa under the ANC is probably the most dogmatically liberal country in the world. Every liberal prejudice, from gay rights to women’s rights to affirmative action is to be found as government policy over there. Much of this liberal programme is completely at odds with traditional African culture. But the point about South Africa’s black establishment is that their identities are not primarily African. They are de-tribalised and define themselves as progressives, liberals and leftists, but not as Zulu or Sotho or Xhosa. Presumably this is because they regard the specific African identities that they were born into as obstacles to ‘black unity’. The fact that there have been no attempts to establish universities that teach in African languages confirms how little they really identify with their African heritage. And I think that the substitution of an artifical political identity for a genuine tribal one also makes members of South Africa’s black establishment especially sensitive to charges that they are acting white, since they are definitely not acting black. The ANC’s political philosophy – and its the ANC who set the tone for the black establishment – is simply white liberalism unleashed, with a dose of (white) Marxist rehtoric.. There is little about the party that is authentically ‘African.’ I can’t think of a better way for such people to attempt to re-establish their African credentials than to express hostility towards whites and to stoop to such cheap stunts as decrying ‘acting white’ as a terrible offence (despite the fact that their own outlook is largely derived from white political conventions and white ways of looking at society).

  99. 99 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 18:42

    @ Bill D

    Oprah changes her way of speaking depending upon the audience she has. I hear her speak “black” on her Xm radio station sometime. Don’t ask why I listen.

  100. 100 Thomas
    April 14, 2008 at 18:43

    I’m white, but I lived and worked in Japan for three years. I learned to speak and act Japanese in order to fit in. If a Japanese person came to the U.S. they would probably try to act and speak like an American to fit in. To say they would have to act white is ridiculious.

    Los Angeles, CA

  101. 101 Jim
    April 14, 2008 at 18:43

    None of your guests have mentioned that white people have to ‘act white’to succeed. There are unwritten rules in the business environment and if you don’t understand them, you’ll flounder. Education, competitive drive, the ability to persuade and dressing according to the particular business’ climate are part of making it.

    Annapolis, MD

  102. 102 Scott Millar
    April 14, 2008 at 18:44

    Not all cultures are created equal. Not all elements of a culture should be a source of pride. Plenty of elements in white, black and Asian culture are deplorable and should not be embraced. Past and current oppression often creates anger and that anger often manifests itself in culture. Much of current black culture in America is the child of anger and to say we need to embrace it without criticism and analysis is silly. American “white” bad-ass go-it-aloneness should also not be embraced. Nor should many other cultures and elements of cultures.
    -Portland, Oregon

  103. 103 Shedisha
    April 14, 2008 at 18:44

    I am of Jamaican descent but I grew up in New York.

    Below is some information about Jack and Jill:

    Historically, Jack and Jill was created by affluent Blacks in America to give their children the opportunity to associate with other affluent Black children. Many of the children in Jack and Jill live in predominately white neighbors and attend predominately white schools. Hence, their interaction with other Black children was limited. This club was created to alleviate that problem.

    Jack and Jill:


    Shedisha in Washington DC

  104. 104 Jack Beninble
    April 14, 2008 at 18:44

    As a White American, I question whether these people who talk about “acting white” know many white people outside of a professional setting. I believe this “acting white” is as much an act for us as anyone else. In private, I don’t wear a tie or loafers etc., these are things one does to fit in with professional culture. I use plenty of slang in my private life, but I do not do so at work because it is not profssional.

    I find it somewhat offensive that people assume that the stereotypical khaki-wearing scrubbed clean facade is somehow natural for people like me.

  105. 105 Simon
    April 14, 2008 at 18:44

    I live in Denver, CO. I am the son of a mexican immigrant father and a white american mother. My wife’s father is black and her mother is from Japan. We both consider ourselves uniquely American. Each person’s culture is the sum of our experience. Groing up in Utah, I attended majority white schools where I was the diversity in the community. I know that I feel well versed in the “white” tradition though not always comfortable. My feeling is that as long as you follow the established rules, any cultural community will let you participate. Success in the work and academic environment usually depends on how well you can imitate those above you: Most of the time those people in power (at least around me) are white.

    Simon in the US

  106. 106 Yisak
    April 14, 2008 at 18:44

    The behaviour of white people is not uniform, Nor is the behaviour of Black people. This generalising is racist and immature.


  107. 107 JC
    April 14, 2008 at 18:44

    i don’t i act like a coconut, and i’ve been accused of ‘acting white’ and ‘thinking white,’ but i was born in michigan and i grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. i don’t consider myself as anything really, but screwed up, b/c i dont have any sense of my identity nor my roots or anything.

  108. 108 Marta, Poland
    April 14, 2008 at 18:46

    Setting question in such way, we will go nowhere. What do you mean “white”? American? British? Australian? Romanian? Even white people are so diversified in terms of cultures, languages, accents, behaviour that it in the business there is needed one standard of behaviour, wear, etc. In my opinion such question is sharing more people rather than connecting them.

  109. 109 Chuck Paugh
    April 14, 2008 at 18:47

    Listening to today’s discussion, the problem doesn’t sound like it is an issue of acting “white” vs. “black” but rather an issue of behaving “British” or not acting “British” – within England and former British colonies.

    When I have visited Britain as an American businessman, I have to act like a Britain rather than an American if I want a business deal to go through.

    I wonder how much of this is a race issue or rather an issue of dealing with the strong cultural identity within the British culture that excludes non-Britains regardless of race.

    Chuck Paugh
    -Portland, Oregon USA
    Listening on OPB

  110. 110 Jonathan
    April 14, 2008 at 18:48

    Lets face it. Barack Obama would not be getting as far as a presidential candidate if he were more like Al Sharpton or other equivalent!

  111. 111 Cali R
    April 14, 2008 at 18:48

    What the heck is a Jack and Jill club in the UK? It is the name of a sex club in the USA. Please use less British slang! We can’t answer your question if you use British slang.

    Cali R.
    Beaverton, Oregon

  112. 112 Sara Greenwald
    April 14, 2008 at 18:49

    Subconsciously acting white.

    I’m white, but have taught English composition, and know that each ethnic or social group has it’s language customs. That’s natural.

    I do hear fellow whites laugh at or dismiss people who “talk too black.”

    I hear students and myself adapting our language to out listeners and environment. I myself try to moderate my Brooklyn (New York USA) accent in academic settings. I often hear myself adopting what sound to me like “black community” manners of speech with students, and simplifying my vocabulary.

    Some black people find this patronizing. It feels dishonest sometimes, but is very hard for me to avoid.

    Sara Greenwald
    San Francisco USA

  113. 113 Phil Yates
    April 14, 2008 at 18:50

    The terms “ACTING WHITE or ACTING BLACK” are based and manipulated by the ideals to only express yourself within the comfort level of those around you. You’ll notice NO ONE is able to define this directly, it’s not possible. if you’re black and you are surrounded by blacks who do not venture out of their “comfort zone” you’ll be looked at askance. If you are black and surrounded by whites who don’t venture out of their comfort level, most will look for the traits they “expect” blacks to have based on; childhood, news, school influences, etc. I have a pretty even # of black, asian, and white friends. The truth is once people notice the similarities they have in people of other races(moral values, love of life, etc) they find there is no real difference except socially! The problem comes when trying to make a living in the working world!! In the working world there is no time to notice similarities because you have a job to do, but instead of NOT judging and trying to find out the truth, people judge without ever finding out the facts of the individual!! this defines the limited thinking of close-minded employers and employees alike.

  114. 114 Al
    April 14, 2008 at 18:50

    To some extent we all have to shed our identities to be successful in our particular society. In the US you play golf, dress in a suit, enjoy the right wines. I have a co-worker, a white male, who was told that to get to the next level he needed to get rid of some of his current friends, also white males but did not fit that mold of success established by rich white men. I am a white woman living in Chicago, successful in the corporate world because I have adapted to this white male culture.


  115. 115 Timmy
    April 14, 2008 at 18:51

    I am an African-American and I remember as a child, my mom would always say, “oh he speaks so proper.” Nowadays, I have people tell me that they do not consider me to be black because the manner in which I speak.

    Timmy from United States

  116. 116 Roger
    April 14, 2008 at 18:51

    As we attempt to preserve all of our diversity across the world, we loose sight of the value of finding what we have in common. The idea that we are acting Black or White begs the more legitimate issue of complying with social norms. Many of us “white guys” found that we had to comply with social norms to effectively contribute to society. (In the 60s our parents rather strongly encouraged this “white” ishness.) If you existed in the 60’s and didn’t understand social norms, you missed a much of the point of the decade. In this sense, it we want to preserve some unpopular or minority position, we should accept that we are either, 1. trying to change society or 2.that we are not going to be as effective contributing our part to society. To demand that society make space for us to act however we wish, is unrealistic. It is unfortunate but real that social norms are still driven by the majority. If I go to China and ignore their social norms, I will not be effective. Perhaps it is time to refocus on how to realize our common objectives and defocus the stress on preservation of multi-cultural diversity. If I want to fit into any group, I have to respect the group standards and if I want to standout, I pay the price of being treated differently.


  117. 117 Ben~Malaysia
    April 14, 2008 at 18:53

    Since this issues concerns Asians,please allow some Asians like myself to come on air to speak about the issues rather than simply taking calls from whites and blacks and leaving your malaysian female lady as the only yellow asian representative to provide an asian perspective on this important issue.It seemed that BBC seemed more interested in listening the views of white americans,white brits and other whites affected by asians and blacks rather than vice-versa which your topic today clearly mandated.
    I can provide you a comprehensive answer provide the platform is given to me.
    Thanks for your time.

  118. April 14, 2008 at 18:53

    I think this discussion is not actually addressing the issue of black (or multi-color) vs. white, it’s an issue of aspiring to power , success, or opportunity. It’s not a question of race but a matter of social status and standing. To fit in with the upper echelons of power, the individual must usually conform to the established norms of speech, dress, action, and behavior.

  119. 119 Nancy
    April 14, 2008 at 18:54

    When we grow up and become part of the business community we all put aside actions and traits of behavior and dress to fit into the profession to which we want to fit. And if we do not, will we succeed. Is there a white or black or asian profession? Except maybe in music.

  120. 120 Scott
    April 14, 2008 at 18:54

    I’ve never much liked culture in general and wish I could belong to none. From my view culture is passe, cliche, boring and oppressive! Culture is not modern!

    Portland, Oregon

  121. April 14, 2008 at 18:55

    The only definition that’s been offered for “acting white” has been of acting corporate, which I resent having to do when I’m at work. (I’m white already.)

    It sounds like acting successful, acting corporate is being defined as “acting white” as an unfortunate reaction to colonization and slavery, but it only becomes the most powerful form of self-oppression to define one’s own group as uneducated and non-punctual (as it was defined earlier).

  122. 122 gary
    April 14, 2008 at 18:58

    Hello All,
    No. However, all social interaction requires some sort of lingua franca. From which culture this tongue is derived depends entirely upon the local dominant culture.

  123. 123 Pel
    April 14, 2008 at 18:58

    I’ve been to both North America and the U.K., and in both places I’ve had to change my accent accordingly. Every time I tell people that I’m from Ghana I get the response, “You don’t have an accent.” At lectures in university, students complain about a professor and say (s)he’s no good because this professor speaks with an accent, when I can understand them quite well. At my friends’ house I tried to teach them a card game which I’d learned from another white person, and maybe I did not explain it properly, but one of them commented, “why can’t we play a normal North American game?” Is there such a thing as acting/being white or black? yes. When I’m with my black friends I feel no need to assume a certain role compared to with my white friends. With the latter I have to speak and act differently. Dressing even slightly differently from the usual jeans and t-shirt or suit and tie has earned the responses like “is there a Ghanaian function or something?” On the other hand, when my black friends find me listening to rock music they say I’m turning white. I think it is safe to say that different races identify themselves with certain behaviours which set them apart, and people have suffered certain social injustices because of that.


  124. 124 Chris
    April 14, 2008 at 18:58

    In order to succeed in this world, anyone needs to be able to communicate in effective way, & to behave in an acceptable way to those around him. Does this mean changing his culture? If so, there s something wrong with his culture.

    Chris in Namibia

  125. 125 Ian
    April 14, 2008 at 18:59

    This discourse raged in the 17th century & we have learned nothing-much white behaviour is from black culture and viceversa

    Ian in Jamaica

  126. 126 Nick
    April 14, 2008 at 18:59

    John and Linda; In what way do you feel that you have been whitewashed? Are there things that your cultures want you to do that you are unable to do because of white people? Are white people forcing you to do specific things that your culture prevents you from doing?

    Carlos, are you claiming that any person who displays these attributes “behaving courteously, speaking properly, being confident/self-assured, working hard, displaying creativity and ingenuity, working together as a team etc.” got them from protestant christian religion. I may have misunderstood, but I truly hope that’s not your claim.

    Do people really believe that whites have set up rules to keep blacks and asians down? Could someone give me a current example of this? Has anybody ever spoken to a manager who, when given the option to hire a white guy who could make $50,000 for the company or a black or asian person who would make $100,000 for the company, chose the white guy?

  127. 127 jesse
    April 14, 2008 at 18:59

    hello every one,I’ve never known that people who try or behave like the whites are call with such names,anyway in the first place those who call others with such names should know that culture is dynamic,so consciously or unconsciously they find themselves behaving that way,because people and environment influence human character and behavioral pattern.and everyone has the right to choose the way he or she wants to behave,so whats the big deal?but blacks or Africans do not have to behave like the whites to be employed or succeed.black and Asians are unique in their own ways of doing things employers should note that.

  128. 128 Kevin
    April 14, 2008 at 19:02

    Perhaps, the notion that one must act in a way that, somehow, is different from one’s normal behaviors (happenstantially, attributed to race or cultural background), reflects an awareness that “fitting in”, on some level, is required for success. But, I would contend that we all monitor our environments for cues about how to succeed, regardless of our backgrounds. Remember that an essential part of Darwin’s theory is the “successful” organism that thrives is the one that best learns to adapt to the reality of their surroundings.

    Organizations’ cultures differ company-to-company. Would it not be reasonable to expect that someone used to functioning in a tough-minded, performance-oriented culture, such as a General Electric, might have to learn to exihibit new behaviors, speech patterns, language (jargon), and behave differently, when joining a new organization with another, very different corporate culture?

    Often, failure to recognize those existing cultural artifacts dooms one to failure. But, of course, racial or other forms of discrimination are unacceptable.

    Kevin in the US

  129. 129 Paula
    April 14, 2008 at 19:03

    Behaving in a professional manner and speaking English properly is not behaving white. White people may be the majority in culture in some countries, but we also have to remember all white people are not successful and are not part of the corporate culture. I think it’s an insult to assume that whites have the entire market for being successful. What are we measuring success by?

    My opinion is, we all alter our behavior when we go to school, church, or work. Does that make us less of who we are or does it change they way we live our lives? I say no.

    Los Angeles, CA

  130. 130 Anonymous
    April 14, 2008 at 19:04

    I agree with Janice of Texas when she says the dominant culture affects us whether we are aware of it or not. We all have diff roles to play in diff times and humans, as inherit problem-solvers, tend to adapt to the situation in front of them.


  131. 131 Jean
    April 14, 2008 at 19:06

    You are not describing white, only a certain level of English culture, and when you talk about speaking with your hands and loudly, you could just as well be describing some people from Italy.

    Jean in France

  132. 132 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    April 14, 2008 at 19:06

    Hello! 🙂

    Wow… Behave white… I wonder what it means. What I think is that no race is superior to the others because, after all, we are human beings with the same weaknesses and strengts. It’s not only a matter of race but a matter of culture, and in this case I consider that every culture is valuable, too. Unfortunately, human history has shown how our prejudices makes us feel superior or inferior, and because of this we judge the others in the wrong way. Western manners are not better or worse that the others: Just look at the progress that our civilization has had, and you’ll notice that many Asian and black people have contributed, too.

    Also, there’s no way to act like white, black, asian and so on… You are just the person your community, family and culture made. The color of your skin should not define what you are (although unfortunately it does today!): If you want to be successful, just work as hard as you can and do things right. Show the others you are capable to do what you aim, and that’s it.

    Cheers! 🙂

  133. 133 Laura
    April 14, 2008 at 19:07

    I m BLACK & can achieve anything witout pretending to be white. I’m proud of my color which makes me dutiful & distinct.

    Laura in Monrovia

  134. 134 iris
    April 14, 2008 at 19:07

    Hi WHYS

    I was sad to hear your guest speaker talk about having to change her accent but then I remembered that I did the same thing. I am German but lived in the UK for 12 years. I didn’t want people to notice a German accent in my English and was very proud of the fact that I was mostly mistaken for being Canadian. I wanted to sound like a native speaker, for reasons too numerous to go into here.

    I wanted to make the point that this is not really a racial issue. It’s about having to assimilate into and live by the rules of a dominant culture (be it a country or the business world). I was told by a job adviser in the UK that I wouldn’t get very far if I hung on to American spelling.

    But putting personal experiences aside, I think that World Service listeners have a head start in accepting differences because we are exposed to such a variety of accents on a daily basis, be it native speakers of English from around the world or non-native speakers trying to express themselves in a foreign language.

  135. 135 Ricky
    April 14, 2008 at 19:08

    I have been around lots of white people for most of my life and they (the white people) more wanted me to be myself more than I wanted to be. I think we should be ourselves in what ever society you live in. As long as a person have good moral standards he or she can live in any country and be themselves.

    Ricky in the West Indies

  136. 136 Andrew
    April 14, 2008 at 19:09

    When my grandparents came here from Europe as Jews they faced so much exclusion that ‘acting’ christian/catholic wasn’t enough. One had to change their name, their look or start their own clubs/business. This seems a continuation of the same old xenophobia vs simply requiring people to act white…i think it’s anyone who comes into a country with a strong culture.

    Andrew in Portland, Oregon

  137. 137 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 19:09

    Yes, this term “white” is wrong. Do chavs and rednecks act/dress “white”?? Really, this is all a “I’m jealous of what you got, so I have to act like you to get it” thing. It’s successful people that you want to imitate, because you want the success they have.

  138. 138 Babagana
    April 14, 2008 at 19:10

    A person’s race does not matter what matters is to behave in accordance with etiquette.

    Babagana from Maiduguri in Nigeria.

  139. April 14, 2008 at 19:12

    Since we are talking about financial and occupational success obviously. It would be nice to have a panel of employers, CEOs and career consolers come in and explain what kinds of attributes they are looking for in hiring and promoting employees and why these traits are important. Things that I am pretty sure they will agree on is clear speaking to communication skills, neat symmetrical and unwrinkled appearance, sings of a team player willing to conform to company standards, a depth in knowledge of subjects that their customers might be interested in, and sensitivity to co-workers. Then we can gain an understand of what the “white” approach to that attribute and compare it to other races approach.

  140. 140 Isa
    April 14, 2008 at 19:13

    I’m black and proud. Unfortunatly many blacks living oversea lack racial pride. They blame every misfortune that happen to them to their colour.

    Isa from Nigeria

  141. April 14, 2008 at 19:14

    I am brown and work for a british charity and believe me it’s difficult. Most white managers do not know cultural sensitivity in managing colour.


  142. 142 Atsu
    April 14, 2008 at 19:15

    When will people everywhere realise that we humans are spirits and that our bodies are just vehicles for our sojourn on this earth? Why care so much about it’s color.

    Atsu in Ghana

  143. 143 David
    April 14, 2008 at 19:16

    It does not matter, white, black or brown. Work hard, imbibe the right values and you are ok. Values are universal.

    David in Nigeria

  144. April 14, 2008 at 19:16

    Success does not depend on colour. Be a coconut, black, or white each person is created with unique resemblances and differences that complement each other.


  145. 145 RRB
    April 14, 2008 at 19:18

    I think people are confusing issues of race with communal norms. I am a white woman who is most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt; however, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to go to work in that sort of attire. Am I conforming to the standards of my work community? Absolutely. Does that change who I am in essentials? No. I also don’t communicate with my colleagues in the same way that I communicate with my friends, and I don’t communicate with my friends in the same way that I communicate with my grandparents. That’s not hypocritical or phony…that’s simply a dynamic adaptation, and we do it every day even when we aren’t aware of it. In a more open community, we do it more frequently. But even in a more closed society, we still adapt our modes of communication and behavior to facilitate effective and beneficial interactions.

    It’s not “black” behavior or “white” behavior — it’s cultural/communal behavior. A successful adapter can fit comfortably into multiple communities without sacrificing the essentials of self. If I learn to speak French, I don’t lose my identity as an American; I’ve simply expanded the number of people with whom I can communicate effectively. In the same way, if I adapt to my work situation, I have made myself understandable to those with whom I have to work…I can more easily engage them in my goals there because I have identified myself as part of the community.

  146. 146 Michele
    April 14, 2008 at 19:18

    If this is true then Nairobi is full of coconuts. We love to listen to rock music and basically act white. If this is wrond then sue me!

    Michele in Nairobi

  147. 147 Jude
    April 14, 2008 at 19:20

    Anthropological concepts no longer rule mans thoughts as they once did. The Neworld is blind to race and such mundane considerations.

    Jude in Lagos

  148. 148 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    April 14, 2008 at 19:20

    Hi, Janice and Anonymous! 🙂

    I agree with you when you say we need to get adapted to the situation and the place where we are, and that’s completely true.

    But it does not mean you have to change your personality to look like someone else just because “whites”, for instance, are better. You may change to be a better person – human being -, then maybe you can get more education or manner; Or you can reconsider you ethics and values. But any of these aspects have to do with race or culture because you simply cannot change what you are.

    But, because we live in a racist society, blacks, asians, latin americans and all the other races different to whites (English? American?) have become racists, too: most of them feel inferior and don’t try their best to progress in life. What a shame!

  149. 149 steve
    April 14, 2008 at 19:21

    If it’s politically correct to call a black person who acts white an “oreo” or “coconut” what is the word to call a white person that acts black? And another point, do the white people who act black tend to be successful people?

  150. 150 Sam
    April 14, 2008 at 19:23

    @It s not about Race, but “self concious & mental attitude.” Bob Marley s Redemption Song says: emancipate urselves frm mental slavery… I ve had white bosses, white frends & am marrying my German girlfrend this year…

    Sam in Lilongwe

  151. 151 moh
    April 14, 2008 at 19:23

    You must be asking for trouble…how does that question fit in with MJ?

  152. 152 Neema
    April 14, 2008 at 19:23

    I worked in a call centre in the uk and was hired for my accent – African, clear. Didn’t have to change.

    Neema in Uganda

  153. April 14, 2008 at 19:24

    Race, colour even sexism are matters of perception and social upbringing. these perceptions have no fundamental basis. We are all human beings first and foremost.


  154. 154 Yazid
    April 14, 2008 at 19:26

    Been black does not mean naturally you wil not be successful but detarmination makes you successful what about people like ben carson and Soyinka, they are successful as well as blacks I think saying that is racial abuse.

    Yazid in Nigeria

  155. 155 Alex
    April 14, 2008 at 19:26

    Whites have always looked down the blacks or Asians. This needs to change. We ve the powers to do even more what the whites can.

    Alex in Nairobi

  156. 156 Hosea
    April 14, 2008 at 19:28

    I don’t agree with the issue of behaving like the white before you get what you want. People with that habit are those who dont believe in themselves.

    Hosea in Nigeria

  157. 157 Sonia
    April 14, 2008 at 19:28

    Whatever works.

    Sonia in West Africa

  158. 158 Owerri
    April 14, 2008 at 19:29

    A black man must be very proud of his accent anywhere in the Western World not minding racism.

    Owerri in Nigeria

  159. 159 Josh W
    April 14, 2008 at 19:30

    They may behave like some white people. I think this whole thing is really stupid and pointless, because in all the african people I have met, I can distinguish no overiding cultural norm, apart from a slight tendancy to be more freindly and open, but that is probably a prerequisit to come to another country anyway! Among uk people I can find far more difference between cities than between skin colours. But on the broader question, people will work in different ways, and finding a company with a culture that suits you will I think help you a lot. I know some places would not suit me at all, but that’s not because of my skin.

  160. 160 Tamba
    April 14, 2008 at 19:30

    I am black and nothing will change that. Success is not by black or white but who and what your brain can do.

    Tamba in Freetown, Sierra Leone

  161. 161 Mohamed
    April 14, 2008 at 19:30

    What makes the difference between blacks and white is it the colour or personality?

    Mohamed from Southern Sudan.

  162. 162 Boniface
    April 14, 2008 at 19:31

    Here in Kenya the asians are also treated as the whites. Due to the whites level of development and civilisation we have to imitate them.

    Boniface in Nairobi

  163. 163 Austin
    April 14, 2008 at 19:32

    There is a sense of superiority associated with being white.

    Austin Jos Nigeria.

  164. 164 Fayce
    April 14, 2008 at 19:32

    What is black and what is white?

    Fayce in Uganda.

  165. 165 Paschal
    April 14, 2008 at 19:33

    I think Poverty makes us blacks vulnerable to xenophobia. Blacks view white as superior. We are brainwashed!

    Paschal in kampala.

  166. 166 Maina
    April 14, 2008 at 19:34

    What the coconuts need is a dose of Malcolm X: race pride and mental emancipation.

    Maina in Nairobi

  167. 167 Sumayya
    April 14, 2008 at 19:34

    I had rather eat with my hands then a fork and knife. Brown and proud.

    Sumayya in Kenya

  168. April 14, 2008 at 19:35

    Behaving white is an advantage where white people are in charge. But it may not be racism, it may reflect the human tendency to be at ease with like minds..


  169. 169 Jonathan
    April 14, 2008 at 19:36

    I’ll never compromise..I am proud to be a black person and I don’t see the need to change my identity. After all black is beautiful.


  170. 170 Slev
    April 14, 2008 at 19:36

    Whether you are a coconut and happy or not depends on some circumstances.

    Slev in Nigeria

  171. 171 Femi
    April 14, 2008 at 19:37

    Am proud to be black race. They are culture and well behave. Beside, blacks are more superior and inteligent than white.

    Femi from Lagos in Nigeria

  172. 172 savane
    April 14, 2008 at 19:38

    Hi. I used to be a ‘single-foreign-black-African-Catholic-upper/middle income woman’. That was in the 1980s when I studied and worked in the US.

    I can’t stand labels. The need to define people into an intricate amount of detail is (to me), the clearest indication of insecurity. You have to find a reason to show how you are different from me. Two countries that have institutionalised ‘colour-coding’ are the US and SA – and it was used as a criteria to divide and rule the country.

    Growing up in Kenya, I didn’t realise focus on being black until it became something that defined me all the time in the US. I did face racism in Kenya, growing up in a predominantly white colonial neighbourhood, being the first black family to join the Country Club, and going to a private school run by Irish nuns. Ethnicity (tribe) is the main criteria used to define people. Race, religion, gender, economic status, education are also used to define us.

    I’m neither a coconut nor an oreo, but I can relate to experiences mentioned by some bloggers.

    I choose to speak the languages I speak correctly, I choose to retain my Catholicism, I choose to listen to Kenyan, African, Jazz and Reggae music. I choose to live in the upper-class suburb I live in and send my children to private schools.

    If that makes you label me an oreo or a coconut, knock yourself out! It’s your label – I’m not wearing it! I’m not trying to be white, I’m just different from you!

    Today, I’m I a ‘married-Kenyan–Catholic-income wife and mother’.

    Ros, today’s topic is a mirror of the message I sent on 14 Feb 08.


  173. 173 Peter
    April 14, 2008 at 19:39

    You just be yourself be God made who we are…

    Peter from Zambia

  174. 174 Stefan
    April 14, 2008 at 19:39

    I am medical scientist, now living in Belgium (and listening to your very good programs almost every night, on my way home), but who lived in South Africa for quite a while, before moving on to the USA. I’m very very white: I have one Scottish and one German grandfather, and a Dutch and Belgian grandmother. I have a Polish father in law, and a mother in law from Kazakhstan…I guess that qualifies for white, in white surrounding. Funny enough, when working in South Africa, more than once I was refused entry to meetings with superior very black officials, because of my dress-code. The only way for me to get into the room and explain them about the science we were doing, is by wearing a way too expensive suite and a tie, just like all of them. On the other hand, my same dress code has caused me many troubles on entry into the USA. Try telling a customs official you’re an expert in genetic manipulation, while you look like you did not have a decent shave for the last 4 days (sorry, too busy with the test tubes), and you shirt is not nicely tugged into your pants! So, can please someone tell me what this is all about. Actually it’s very simple. But it took the great Darwin to find out. We’re group animals and we’ll try our best to be successful. Some of us don’t, and they don’t get to be important (and procreate with other important people), and others find their way around very successful. I bet in 100 we all have to behave very Chinese if we want to be a successful businessman/woman.


  175. 175 Isaac
    April 14, 2008 at 19:40

    Coconuts and whites have no culture.

    Isaac in Uganda

  176. 176 MFK
    April 14, 2008 at 19:40

    People tend to identify themselves with the surroundings & pickup certain behavior, way of life, automatically whether black, white, colour etc.


  177. 177 Adi
    April 14, 2008 at 19:41

    I think the issue is not whether you have to be white or black. It’s simply an issue of culture of the area you find yourself, which you must imbibe to make you more acceptable and facilitate your success.

    Adi in Calabar, Nigeria.

  178. April 14, 2008 at 19:42

    The key word is globalization and market forces. Many Africans now speak and gesture like Nigerians because of the aggressive Nigerian film industry.


  179. 179 Abinadab
    April 14, 2008 at 19:43

    Success does not depend on colour.I can achieve whatever I want, anytime, anywhere without having to Adulterate myself…

    Abinadab, Nigeria

  180. April 14, 2008 at 19:48

    John and Linda; In what way do you feel that you have been whitewashed? Are there things that your cultures want you to do that you are unable to do because of white people? Are white people forcing you to do specific things that your culture prevents you from doing?

    From what I took away from their appearance on todays programme is that people don’t let them call others dear because of their race.
    (This was the John/Linda who were on todays programme, right?)

    Do people really believe that whites have set up rules to keep blacks and asians down?

    Al Sharpton?

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  181. April 14, 2008 at 19:51

    They have to be responsible for their acts, be honest and hard working! That is called having good principals not being white, race does not have to do anything with good behavior.

  182. 182 Mark Sandell
    April 14, 2008 at 19:52

    Yes, Brett it was the same John and Linda.

  183. 183 James
    April 14, 2008 at 19:55

    Hi,. Blacks try to behave like white because the wwihte have implanted into the black that black is bad, ignorant, ugly etc. But i think the black can do better outside that. Thanks
    James from northern Uganda

  184. April 14, 2008 at 19:58

    Blacks try to behave like white because the whites have implanted into the black that black is bad, ignorant, ugly etc. But I think the black can do better outside that.

    James in Uganda

  185. 185 Nick
    April 14, 2008 at 20:00

    Isaac, what do you mean coconuts and whites have no culture? Perhaps you need a reminder of the definition of culture. –noun 1. the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc. If this is your measure of culture, then I’d say we have plenty. In fact, by this measure coconuts have more culture because they have elements of more than one culture in their personalities.

  186. April 14, 2008 at 20:01

    This debate hinges a lot on racism. The whole issue of ‘behaving like a white’ is one that has over time been used to differentiate enlightenment from primitivity. If a black man wants to be accepted into society, he must behave like a white man.

  187. April 14, 2008 at 20:09

    The path to being successful is to be yourself

  188. 188 renee
    April 14, 2008 at 20:13

    I listened to the description of Jack & Jill as a club people join to teach their Black kids how to act like middle class Whites. Actually it is totally the opposite. It is based on two premises.

    Disproportionately Black have more challenges, and are less prepared, to get accepted in colleges. Findings indicated because Whites have so many more inside tracks, resources connections, advisors counselors, more generations of college educated folks in their families. Middle class White teens grow up having all this access and extra education and coaching about how to stand out and make sure you have all the building blocks in place to get into college. One role of Jack and Jill is to educate and prepare Black teens about what it takes to get into college and how you have to prepare to have a better chance of getting into college.

    The other fact is that a disproportionate percent of children of color go to under resourced public schools and receive questionable quality of education and preparation for the future. Whites for a long time have taken their children out of this environment and placed them in private college preparatory schools. Some Blacks that can afford to have now started to do the same to better their children’s chances of going to college. As they have these children have often spend their formative education years (grades 7 through 12) in nearly exclusively White environments in these schools … the majority of teachers, majority of students, academic curriculum are all White-based/Eurocentric. Another role of Jack and Jill is to give the Black teens in this predicament an outlet, a place where they can feel comfortable, be in the company of other teens that look like them and keep them connected with their culture, values and heritage.

  189. 189 Ben~Malaysia
    April 14, 2008 at 20:16

    Now that we have a meaningful discussion of this topic, the time is ripe for a solution to the topic today.
    From an Asian perspective, if you want to embody whites characteristics without being called a banana, just make sure you can speak your original mother tongue superbly and no asians will dare to call you a banana.I wonder if all the africans who are called oreos start speaking African dialects fluently like a local african, will fellow africans label you an oreo still?Asians would not label each other a banana if you are an Asian who are fluent in English and your local Asian language.In fact, you will be treated like a rare living Asian treasure.Only when you speak fluent english but speak zero or poor Asian language, will the banana label be imposed.Perhaps this solution of “dont forget to fluent in african languages too” if you want to speak good english and can be a solution for our African friends to not being labelled an oreo by their African community!Good luck:)

    The second solution is to change one’s perspective when you receive the words thats being put to you.In Malaysia where there are 3 main races of malay muslims, chinese and indians who have co-existed peacefully for the last 100 years, when a malay comments that his fellow chinese countryman speaks the malay language as fluently as a malay, the chinese and all chinese in malaysia took this comment with pride and really happy that a fellow chinese could speak malay like a malay.And this applies too when an indian speaks malay and chinese well and the entire indian community are proud of this fellow Indian.And the same for our Malay friends too.No one in Malaysia will feel inferior if we are known to speak good malay, chinese or tamil or prescribe an “inferior” implicit meaning to all these praises.Conversely, whenever the word “whites” is used with the words “blacks” or “asians” in the same sentence, there seemed to be an element of superiority and inferiority involved.Therefore it is how you choose to react to the words no matter how the other party wants to present it.After all in this democractic world of ours, the presenter of the word has one vote out of 6 billion and you the recipient of the word is a vote out of 6 billion.If you decide to give your vote to his “whites” words with the hidden superiority meaning whether it exists or not, then you are helping the presenter’s cause only.So, stand up for yourself,change your perspective and never give meaning to any words more than they deserve.
    Thanks for reading and hope the above can this world a better place to live in and thank you Ross,Chloe and team for taking my call and really enjoyed the discussion and will tune more often now than ever!
    Have a great week ahead to all fellow earthlings!

  190. 190 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    April 14, 2008 at 20:33

    Hi, Israel! 🙂

    I’m sorry, I don’t get your point. Then are blacks still primitives? What about Asians and latin americans (and other minoritary communities)?

    What does race have to do with education and personality? Being black or white does not make you better…

  191. 191 Nick
    April 14, 2008 at 20:39

    Thanks for clearing that up Brett. To be honest, I didn’t listen to the show yet, since I’m at work. Sorry Ros. I’m not sure that not being accepted is something that can be blamed on white culture though. I am white and my wife is asian, but I’ve experienced nothing but support for our relationship while living in america. In fact, everyone that meets us wants to know all about our relationship. On the other hand, people in her country have criticized her for marrying a foreignor. Just food for thought.

  192. 192 selena
    April 14, 2008 at 21:22

    I don’t think this is a Black and White issue. We all think we have to behave in a certain way in order to belong to our particular groups. It is about fitting in, in a particular situation. We all pick up the tricks of the trade, as we go along.

    Everyone pays attention to the good looking, well dressed person, who appears in control. Doors are opened for the classy looking professional, even in the academic world (sorry Stefan:-)).

    It is the same for everyone but we all tend to think discrimination applies just to *me*.

  193. 194 viola anderson
    April 14, 2008 at 21:48

    So an unsuccessful white person must learn how to act whiter? How silly can you get?

    Clearly, the issue is not skin color, so stop using skin color to indicate something it is not.

    If you have a problem with white skin color, it is your problem, not the world’s.

    Don’t make the same mistake about what it means to have white skin that white racists make about what it means to have black skin.

  194. 195 Brianne
    April 14, 2008 at 22:15

    I love this program and attempt to listen every day, but I must admit that I was a bit disappointed in the discussion today. Please note my disappointment lies not in the openness of expression, but rather in the assumption that these positive qualities are attributed to “whiteness” with no further debate. While I must agree that this is a stigma that is evident in our everyday culture, the free association used in discussion is only attributing to the problem. By stipulating these traits are aligned with being “white” we are only adding to the negative socialization that is so detrimental for anyone who does not fit neatly into this classification box. Everyone must conform at one point or another in order to succeed in the workplace, religious circle, school, etc. but the key is to adapt without loosing the essence of self. Once these ideas of conformity become part of a person’s core rather than a tool for success, the damage is irreversible. I think the question is not black/white, but rather when will our early socialization as children drift from the Euro-centric education path to one that is encouraging of individual development?

    Brianne from the United States

  195. 196 archibald oregon
    April 14, 2008 at 23:12

    Do whites have to behave like asians and blacks to fail?
    Choose your stereotype, the true hindrance to all success……….

  196. 197 David Malinda from Australia
    April 15, 2008 at 00:46

    First let me start by saying that there is no such a thing as black and white as no one looks like a printing paper or coal. The so acclaimed “White people” are just coloured people with lighter pigments than the so-called “Black people”. Coal is black .Is there any one who looks like coal? The words Black and White should be eliminated from our every day-to-day language when we talk about people unless we want to stereotype and profile others.

    I am one of those you call backs. I can tell you how proud I am when I look at myself, my culture, and ethnicity. I am married to one of those we call whites and at my home colour has no place. We are a proud family. Our children are there between in pigmentation. Proudly also looking something like what we are calling Asians. Is it not such a family is blessed. I would wish people should start feeling that way. What you are is who you are and neither you nor some one else can change it.

    But yet those people who feel so unsecure, and suffer from tall poppy syndrome or superiority complex stereotype us.

    As some one said in this forum that

    “Whites = conservative, skittish, geeky, obnoxiously well-spoken, often times crazy
    Blacks = act ‘ghetto’, poor, all speak ebonics

    I cannot tell you how sick it makes me when black friends I have get made fun of for being ‘white’, not only by whites, but by their black peers, simply because they are well spoken or do not line up with common harmful ‘black’ stereotypes”.

    In my view, intelligence, courtesy, and respect are characteristics of a decent person, but not how well one speaks a language. Language only helps us to understand things the way they should mean. When you call yourself white or black look at your skin and ask yourself whether these words were designed to stereotype people. If you want you can proudly call yourself African, European or Asian or the country of your birth.

    Just think of it. We hear all the time the words “third world” meaning, I guess, not so much advanced nations. Where is first world? Where is second world? Again another stereotyping and used mainly by bigoted people. The United nation should bar the use of “third world” as it only serves to demean people.

  197. 198 Neal H
    April 15, 2008 at 01:06

    this question in the US (in the interest of disclosure, I am caucasian) is really clouded with misconceptions and self-hatred. I propose it is not really a race question at all.

    People are people and they act the way they act. In an established society where the worlds of commerce and power are well defined and have a certain style, then anyone who wants to play the game needs to be willing to learn the rules or they will be at a major handicap. This is true not just for Africans or Asians in the US but for everyone.

    Say you want to apply to be a manager of a bank. It behooves you to dress well and comport yourself in a dignified manner, and to be well spoken.

    I don’t know what the issues are for Asians (aside from the odd cultural fad of getting eyelid surgery to have “western eyes”) but let’s look at an African American man going in to interview.

    If he goes in wearing a nice suit and acting in a civil manner and making a good impression, he may well get the job, yet be accused by peers of “acting like whitey.”

    If he goes in wearing traditional African colorful fabrics and holds himself as a good example of an ancient and rich culture and presents well, he may well get the job, and he will express his own culture within a larger American tapestry.

    If he goes in with saggy jeans and a backwards hat and slumps across the chair offered and speaks in Ebonics, his friends will applaud him for how well he did “represent” or “kept it real” and they will blame “The Man” for keeping him down by not hiring him.

    Lesson, you can’t act like a gangsta and expect to be hired as a bank manager. This is not racist, folks.

    Why is it not racist? Because if you had a poorly dressed poorly behaved white fellow speaking in street slang, he wouldn’t get hired either.

    African American males in particular are setting themselves up to fail by disdaining education, celebrating misanthropy and crime, taking pride in poor verbal skills and accusing anyone who manages to make a decent living of “acting white.” Anyone who uses the term “acting white” in that way is being racist towards their own ethnicity, by labelling the qualities of success as “white-like” and reserving for themselves all the negatives yet taking some perverse pride in them. Street cred is not success and there is no honor to African Heritage by emulating the worst examples on tv.

  198. April 15, 2008 at 02:22

    @VictorK and the rest of the WHYS crew:

    Pardon the late response. However, thanks for the clarification. (Could I invite you to read my blog on Obama? Here is the link:

    What makes me a little concerned about what you say is that the designation ‘African-American’, I suspect for many, is a largely political identity intended to denotate a racial difference premised on certain historical facts in the context of American society; i.e; slavery and its impact on the development of modern America as we know it today.

    While, I do not necessarilly agree with the position, I nonetheless suspect that there is some validity to the assertion of a level of “african-ness”, such as it is, in the moniker African-American. (Like you, I believe it would be a little easier to call yourself an American, though, I suspect that there are political reasons informing such a decision.)

    I also wish to acknowlege that I am not especially versed on South African politics, as outlined in your example. However, I think it is fairly obvious that the realiy that you describe is not the case in all instances. There is merit,therefore, in interogating these ideas about identity which circulate, publicly, especially in a context where we sometimes take our position as “the truth”. The value of a debate like this is that it opens the door to addressing some of these ideas, albeit for the duration of the blog, that people use in their various relations with each other.

    For instance, I hear talk of “professionalism” and “the professional look” mostly followed by the use of the term “Western”. However, I would submit that Western in this context is very similar to, if not the same, as being “white” for the simple reason that so much of “professional” culture is transacted in white, Western intellectual spaces, including dress codes, language used, etc.

    Now, does that mean all whites are the same or that all whites come from, live in or aspire towards Western values? No! Indeed, not all whites are professionals. That much is obvious. The point, however, is that “whiteness” as a discourse about power, place and privilege in the world is both a pervasive reality in the West, as much as it is an issue in reference to different groups of white peoples which constitute this political majority. That does not mean that there are no differences in between and across different communities of white peoples (in the West or elsewhere), it simply means that the West is, by and large, a very white space in which certain prescribed codes of conduct are embedded and, therefore, considered beyond being questioned. This is unfortunate.

    Indeed, to discuss “whiteness” in this context is to inversely discuss other forms of ethnicities which proliferate in the West, as well; that is, insofar as “whiteness” is largely considered antithetical to “blackness” and “asianess”. You are white because you are neither black nor Asian, in this regard – that is, in its most simplistic form. How we choose to operationalise that identity, however, is very much a matter of personal choice informed by facotrs like history, politics and socialisation, etc. In effect, there is a unique convergence between the choices we make in terms of how we self identify and how we project that identity, and other forces external to our immediate realities.

  199. 200 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    April 15, 2008 at 03:55

    Hi! 🙂

    I think this discussion is nonsensical… Sorry, but true. 😛
    Should we be racist? Of course we shouldn’t! Be happy with yourself: don’t be a black, a white… just be yourself and try your best to be a better worker, parent, friend, neighbour… human being! Jesus did not only save white, Jewish or black people! Then everyone has the chance to be successful just because you’re alive and you have the means and courage to do it, so don’t limit yourself for silly prejudices!

  200. 201 rc
    April 15, 2008 at 04:12

    What a dumb question. If you wanna be succesful you will have to adjust to the sub culture of the elite and powerful. In some countries that is a white, some a black and some asian or mixed culture. Who thought of this really dumb racial question? What happened to class theories? Was this thought of by an intern? And what about all those racists of all races that seriously answer a question like this. Shallow, shallow, shallow, there goes the bbc.

  201. 202 savane
    April 15, 2008 at 08:00

    I know white people who communicate poorly, dress poorly, are professionally unsuccessful and have atrocious etiquette! What colour should we call them? Black or brown or yellow? Or a blend of colour?

    Many (not all, thankfully) make their way into leadership positions in corporate Kenya. There’s a contentious opinion in Kenya regarding race superiority over age as a criteria for ability that drives me nuts! My parents’ generation were among the first to take over from the colonial administration in government and corporate circles post-independence. They were in their late 20s to mid-30s. This generation has dominated Kenya’s political and corporate scenes, moving from ‘factors’ to ‘owners’ of production. This is where things get warped: I don’t understand the logic that has since followed: the same generation that were post-independence pioneers professionally, have little confidence in subsequent generations to lead the corporates they once worked for and now have substantial shareholding in, and yet, they have gone to great lengths to develop and educate the same generations that they don’t have the confidence to let run their corporates. There are at least three generations post-independence professional Kenyans who are caught in the backlog. ‘Wait your turn’ is a common refrain! The resultant effect is emigration to countries (‘developed’ and ‘developing’) around the world where their professional ability is recognised. The same older generation then lament over Kenya’s brain-drain. The constant ‘battle of the ages’, has culminated in a growing number of successful corporate breakaways from the current ‘owners’ of production, and a few hostile takeovers by younger generations, that are seen as a cultural taboo – you must respect your elders!! The worst effect has been on the highly qualified younger male generation who are rotting away, obediently waiting to inherit a successful empire – very few retain the mantle, most have ground the inherited corporate empires into the ground! Even more strange is the male heirs generally perform poorly compared to their sisters. That’s because sons are more likely to inherit than their sisters. For us, its an added bonus to what we’ve had to build on our own; for our brothers, it’s akin to giving a deliberately starving person a well-stocked table of food that they’ve been eyeing for years, and letting them decide how much to eat, only to wonder why they eat voraciously and throw up shortly afterwards! (read bankruptcy).

    Interesting twist!


  202. 203 Unnar
    April 19, 2008 at 19:50

    Quite honestly I don’t have a clear view of what “white behavior” is any more. I think people of all races need to adapt to certain work environments depending on which field they’re in, but I don’t think a “white behavior” is any more effective or accepted for that manner.

    White ball players, for instance, will definitely need to adapt to certain behavior rules that govern their chosen sport. In the NBA, white ball players wouldn’t be any more successful if they acted “white”, so in that environment, a difference can be spotted. Do they need to act more “black” in order to be successful? In my humble opinion they just need to fit their behavior to the environment they work in, as should everyone else.

    I personally would not be able to spot whether or not an African American is acting white. Courtesy and respect are needed in all areas of life if success is the goal. And those are qualities we all possess.

  203. 204 Natalie
    April 22, 2008 at 15:18

    i’ve just listened to the podcast. a bit overdue!

    i don’t think anyone has to consciously ‘reform’ behave like the people of the current country of residence in order to survive there.

    its probably only subconscious behaviour. i’ve lived in the western world as a kid and when i got back to my home country many other kids thought my accent was funny, my vocab was different etc etc. but now its like i’ve familiarised myself with the customs here once again and abandoned the previous one.

    i think its a terribly normal human behaviour – everyone learns how to adapt, adjust and integrate. even the younger me!

  204. 205 Manish
    April 28, 2008 at 11:45

    Having lived for 20 years both in the UK and the USA (I’m Indian), I never had to “act White” to get noticed. My accent is no longer Indian but that’s natural when you live in a different world for so long – it’s bound to happen; I never tried to “learn” British/American accents – they just grew on me automatically and I’m quite comfortable mixing with anyone, regardless of race/origin. Yes, most people are still a tad bit prejudiced somewhere but I never encountred hostility in my professional life/business. I don’t have much complaint about racism despite being a man of “color”.

    But, I do have a problem with the fact most Westerners are pretty much intolerant/xenophobic when it comes to alien cultures. I’m proud of my Indian culture/values and that is the biggest source of conflict a South Asian can have in the Western world, you can also extend this analogy to cover Muslims who too face discrimination because of their “beliefs”. In my experience, any overt, in-your-face display of Indian values/culture is taken with hostility and “they’re taking over our land” mentality which is very unhealthy, and sad. The Western world is really full of xenophobes and intolerant people who don’t want to accept non-Westerners for who they are.

    THEY WANT YOU TO BECOME ONE OF THEM. I didn’t choose to be Indian; I didn’t choose my religion/cultural values/traditions/tastes/preferences – they are my identity. It’s wrong to expect me to compromise on my identity to as they call it, “fit in with the crowd”. I’m not sheep and have a strong, individual personality. Just as I respect your identity, you should respect mine. Why is it so difficult to comprehend?

  205. 206 nola2727
    July 5, 2008 at 00:44

    I personally feel like there is nothing wrong with speaking proper english.I do have with people (non-whites)trying to change there vocals to imatate a white person to fit in.Take Stuart Scott (espn) for example .I admire him .He has style, but at the same time he’s well spoken and educated .Mike Eric Dyson,a black intellectual.A very educated man.I watched him dance circles around guests on Bill Mahr’s show.What I’m saying is you you can be well spoken and be different .The thing some people fail to realize is that non-white people have to adapt to white culture .Their culture does not matter ,unless there is explotation or a dollar involved .To everybody here there a such thing as being ”white washed”.I’m black and I’m not racist.Besides !I don’t have the power to opperess people,and reduce the number of people from their native land (Native Americans)by killing them and giving them small pox in a blanket .A people in america call their founding fathers great! Yeah Right!

  206. 207 nola2727
    July 5, 2008 at 00:56

    Sorry for some of the misspellings .I know it not proper english !

  207. November 16, 2008 at 03:18

    If I ever had to act white, shoot me. I’d never sacrifice my culture or who I am to get ahead. Also, as has been pointed out, I dislike ‘Asian’ as a term, grouping me with 3·7 billion people, unless one specifically means all Asians. While I respect Indians, Pakistanis, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Afghans, Japanese, Asiatic Russians and others, I don’t think the Chinese have that much in common with them!

  208. April 1, 2009 at 17:27

    because during segregation blacks were forced to perm there hair to fit in with white people (women) and sometimes men too. And now some stilldo thatt after the few hundred years of that. Africans dont wear there hair like that though. and asians i dont know why but in japan most animes have japanese characters with white feautures like eye color and hair.and many die there hair blonde to look white. but they should be proud of there pretty thick yet thin black hair and blacks should be proud of there poofy hair that can be made into any hair style in the world.

  209. 210 doesnt matter
    September 6, 2009 at 04:59

    I would like to address one of the earlier post. which said An East Asian would probably never entertain such an idea!
    It might be an issue among Indians (South Asians).”
    I have lived in India for six years then Sri Lanka for 4 years then New Zealand for 4 years and now I am living in Asia. I have noticed that asians embrace western culture more than Indians. Chinese can work things out with white people. But Indians are in the middle. Not towards black or white. We do not try to be white. We are proud of our culture and heritage. We don’t feel that we have the need to behave like a white man to be successful.We Indians are not ashamed of our culture . What who do is that we take best of Western values and Asian values. Doing that does not make you white. That makes you smart. You are only choosing the best things form both cultures. China and India are economic power houses. They are the nations doing the best during the recession.

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