Get access

Black Metropolis and Mental Life: Beyond the “Burden of ‘Acting White’ ” Toward a Third Wave of Critical Racial Studies


A. A. Akom is an Assistant Professor of Urban Sociology, Africana Studies, and Educational Leadership, as well as Codirector of Educational Equity at the César Chávez Institute at San Francisco State University (


In this article, I reflect on Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu's classic research on the “burden of ‘acting White’ ” to develop a long overdue dialogue between Africana studies and critical white studies. It highlights the dialectical nature of Fordham and Ogbu's philosophy of race and critical race theory by locating the origins of the “burden of ‘acting White’ ” in the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, who provides some of the intellectual foundations for this work. Following the work of F. W. Twine and C. Gallagher (2008), I then survey the field of critical whiteness studies and outline an emerging third wave in this interdisciplinary field. This new wave of research utilizes the following five elements that form its basic core: (1) the centrality of race and racism and their intersectionality with other forms of oppression; (2) challenging white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and other dominant ideologies; (3) a critical reflexivity that addresses how various formulations of whiteness are situated in relation to contemporary formulations of Black/people of color identity formation, politics, and knowledge construction; (4) innovative research methodologies including asset-based research approaches; and, finally, (5) a racial elasticity that identifies the ways in which white racial power and pigmentocracy are continually reconstituting themselves in the color-blind era and beyond (see A. A. Akom 2008c).[oppositional identity, Black student achievement, youth development, acting white, Du Bois, critical whiteness studies, critical race theory, race, Black metropolis, double consciousness, twoness, hip-hop]