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Acting White?: Rethinking Race in "Post-Racial" America 1st Edition

10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195382587
ISBN-10: 0195382587
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Editorial Reviews


"Courageous, poignant, and amusing too, Acting White? takes us deep into the way racial identity operates in everyday life. Carbado and Gulati focus on 'working identity' and explore the 'racial double binds' that blacks-and others too-confront today. Intersectionality figures prominently as well: gender and class dynamics receive serious attention. The treatment of Barack Obama's racial identity is particularly valuable. A brilliant analysis of how race is experienced: in the workplace, in the university, on TV, and in racial profiling, Acting White does some deep racial theorizing in a very approachable way."--Howard Winant, Professor of Sociology, UC Santa Barbara

"This book is audacious. It takes on a racial phenomenon that few people talk openly about-namely, that decision-makers screen African Americans to ascertain whether they are "good blacks" (racially palatable) or "bad blacks" (racially unpalatable). Carbado and Gulati powerfully explain the incentives this creates for African Americans to 'work' (strategically present) their identities to avoid being perceived as 'bad' or too racially salient. Whether you agree or disagree with them, Acting White? is creative, provocative, and a treat to read. After reading this irreverent, witty, and jargon-free book, you will not be able to think about race in the same way."--Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law, Columbia and UCLA

"Now that you've picked it up, you would have to be crazy to set this book down. You know you're curious to learn whether and how you're Acting White. And you need to learn the performance secrets, and the performance expectations, of your friends, your colleagues, your boss. Acting White? brilliantly violates a taboo, by exposing something that secretly we all sometimes do."--Ian F. Haney-López, John H. Boalt Professor of Law, UC Berkeley

"Carbado and Gulati's compelling book is brilliant, eloquent, and accessible to non-legal scholars. It is reminiscent of the most provocative courtroom scenes in its arguments about the nuances and limitations of anti-discrimination law, especially with respect to intra-racial discrimination, a concept that is likely to be unfamiliar to many lay readers. Their analysis of President Obama's appointment of the first Latina to the Supreme court, Sonia Sotomayor, the dual constructions of Michelle Obama as both 'racially palatable' and 'racially unpalatable,' and affirmative action admission decisions in higher education are riveting in light of contemporary diversity discourse."--Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women's Studies, Spelman College

"Provocative and thought provoking, Carbado and Gulati have written an essential book on the incredible complexities of defining race." --CHOICE

"Law students will like Acting White because it is an easy read and it can help those who need to know how to navigate law firms when identity issues come up. Readers wanting to know how to create a working identity they can live with and not feel as though they are selling out can refer to the authors' discussion of four stages of racial negotiation. This book has much to offer and is a must for any library." --Law Library Journal

About the Author

Devon W. Carbado is Professor of Law at University of California, Los Angeles. Mitu Gulati is Professor of Law at Duke University.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195382587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195382587
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Devon W. Carbado, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is professor of law and African American studies at UCLA. Carbado writes about race and is the editor of several books, including Race Law Stories (with Rachel Moran) and Time on Two Crosses (with Donald Weise).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Zain Shirazi on March 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What makes this book stand out is its coupling of theory and practical advice.

The book's foundational premise is that race carries a performative aspect. It analyzes everyday examples found in popular culture (its discussion about Dave Chappelle had me belly laughing!) to show this. From here, the book explains how best one can perform his own racial identity to accomplish his goals.

This combination of theory and a practical understanding of how race works in the real world is both refreshing and incredibly helpful.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Davis on March 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is a game-changer. Profa. Carbado and Gulati, an internationally recognized figure in Critical Race Studies, crafts an excellent work on America's preoccupation with Whiteness (simultaneous with a deep aversion to Blackness) in our post-Racial society. With President Obama in the White House, race has been rearticulated as a curiosity - a different aesthetic that has no effect on individual perception or institutional ascension. However, lost in this imaginary is the fact that Whiteness (as a normative stance) is still the preferred and expected position in American society, particularly in the realm of intellectualism. "Acting White?" interrogates the way Whiteness functions in the Obama Age, becoming paradoxically more invisible and more dominant by the day. For non-White (and particularly Black) persons, the pressure to know and perform Whiteness is strong, only to increase as one climbs the social and/or intellectual ladder. Thus, in the classroom, the boardroom, and the courtroom knowing and perfecting the performative aspects of Whiteness become necessary survival mechanisms in conscripting an appreciation of one's humanity and co-destiny in the hearts of those (Whites) at the centers of power. With this comes an estrangement from non-Whiteness, a powerful and coercive force in and of itself. Carbado and Gulati use their vast and expansive collective knowledge to delineate these mechanisms in a way that is digestible, appreciable, and persuasive. A rare and true feat.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Simson on April 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prof. Carbado is the leading expert on racial performance theory in the United States. He has done an exceptional job in his scholarly work in making his readers understand the contextual nature of race-based judgments, and the race-based incentives people confront in "acting out" their identities in different social environments. This book makes racial performance theory accessible to a broad audience and helps people understand an important theoretical concept through application to everyday situations that all of us can relate to. Because almost all of us work in different organizational settings, I encourage as many people as possible to read this book. We need to better understand the pressures that many of our colleagues face to adjust their behavior to societal expectations even when those expected behaviors undermine parts of their identities. Only when we understand the complex dynamics at work better, we can build a more inclusive environment for all.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ted Lehmann on February 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This important book explores the necessity as well as the personal costs African Americans, as well as other racial, ethnic, and gender groups face when seeking to gain admission to elite law schools, law firms, and other business and professional worlds in terms of altering their look, voice, and manner to suit prevailing standards. Citing many legal precedents as well as the subtle and not-so-subtle shadings of belief and behavior, the authors detail the problems minorities must negotiate. While sometimes going a bit further into legal jargon than I wished, the book still perceptively explores an important issue faced every day by minorities in the white majority world of the elite professions and schools. Excellent Book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert C. Berring on September 2, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book presents a powerful insight on the roles that each of us adopt to fit the situation in which we find ourselves. It reminded me of the comedy of Key and Peele as it explored the challenges of being the only black face in the room. Professor Carbado centers much of his discussion on life in academia, specifically in law schools, and one senses that he is taking his vengeance for past indignities. But what he writes rings true, and it can be easily generalized to fit almost anyone. How much do we remake ourselves to fit specific situations? Who is the real you? Good questions.
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