Doctoral Student Testifies Before U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
A book called Acting White written by Stuart Buck, a doctoral student at the University of Arkansas, caught the attention of a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, leading to Buck's scheduled testimony Friday, May 13 before the commission in Washington.
The commission planned a daylong briefing on the federal enforcement of civil rights laws protecting students against bullying, violence and harassment. Buck is one of 20 people scheduled to speak during the day. Each person will have seven minutes to make a presentation and then will sit on panels to be questioned by the commissioners.
"The commission is looking at all types of bullying and how it affects civil rights," Buck said. "One of the commissioners saw that I had written this book and was interested in learning about bullying within a race. Saying 'you're acting white' is one way black children bully each other."
Buck is a Harvard-trained lawyer who is pursuing a doctorate in education policy in the College of Education and Health Professions. Last year, he published Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation about the taunting use of "acting white" to criticize high-achieving black students. He described it as a social phenomenon with deep cultural roots that Buck linked to desegregation.
"Desegregation undermined one of the traditional centers of the black community: the school," Buck wrote. After many black schools were closed and their students were dispersed into formerly all-white schools, "black schoolchildren, for the first time, faced the possibility of seeing ‘school’ as a place where success equaled seeking the approval of whites."
Buck's book was published by Yale University Press. His interest in the topic grew in part after he and his wife adopted two African-American children. They have four other children.
Topics at the hearing Friday include the scope and seriousness of student-on-student bullying, harassment and violence against students who are targeted due to their race/national origin, religion, disability, gender, and/or their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender expression; the content of applicable federal laws, the enforcement of those laws, and the effectiveness of the federal departments of education and justice in carrying out their enforcement responsibilities; the range of effective intervention and prevention efforts and programs currently promoted by the federal government; and recommendations for enhanced enforcement practices, and/or the need for additional legislation, as appropriate, with respect to efforts by the departments of education and justice.