When We Talk About Black Outcomes Being Different, We Assume That White Outcomes Are the Desired Outcomes
I agree with McWhorter about systemic racism not being to blame for underachievement, but I disagree with the 'acting white' hypothesis too. I think vox is right that 'acting white' is more of a myth than reality, and that blacks have a higher opinion of education compared to whites. On social media, for example, I see way more posts about black people celebrating graduation events and academic achievement, compared to white parents celebrating achievement.
I went to a school that was 40% black, to me it's basically incontrovertible that black kids thought it was "gay" to try hard in school. Most of them had no interest in studying beyond what was required, and the few black kids who did work hard were very consciously separate from the rest. (Interestingly, many of the black kids in my AP classes were gay.)
It might be true that black celebrities talk about education more or that black people would profess education more in a public survey. But I think that proves the point: they talk about education more because they need to. My school had lots of black-only programs to try to make education and dressing neat high-status, and the kids who succeeded in those programs were not the kids who actually did well in class "acting white".
As a kid this used to bother me, but now I see things differently. Instead of supposing that black people aren't doing as well as white people, and parsing out whether that's because of their own choices or systemic forces -- perhaps it's worthwhile wondering if black people have a different view of what it means to do well. At least, when it comes to school, a lot of "education" meant busy work, dumb assignments, learning things that didn't matter, and wasting time. In one sense, my black friends did "better" because they graduated just as well as I did, while putting in a lot less work and having a lot more fun in the meantime. After all, we talk a lot about how education just means credentialing now, but how many people take that to one logical conclusion -- that school really is a waste of time? Is the modern school system something we actually want kids to excel at? It's nkt obvious that having different preferences here is irrational and something we need to explain away.
My point is not that black people are better or worse than white people, or that systemic forces don't exist -- rather, when we talk about black outcomes being different from white outcomes, we assume that white outcomes are the desired outcomes. I'm sure your average black person wants better outcomes too -- more money, more status, less racism etc. -- but it's not obvious that white outcomes are what he wants in all respects. In fact, it's not obvious to me that white outcomes are ideal either. Do we really want a society where a good life depends on doing well in school? How many people even like school?