School Contexts and "Acting White"

Peer Networks of Somali Immigrant Youths in an Afrocentic Charter School

Moo Sung LEE, Na'im Madyun, Beatrice Lam, Mustafa Jumale

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We examine whether the “acting white” labeling practice and subsequent peer isolation exist (or do not exist) within Somali immigrant adolescents, one of the most underresearched black immigrant student groups, and what school contexts are associated with their presence (or absence). Using a case study, we found that high-achieving Somali immigrant students in an urban Afrocentric charter school in the United States were not isolated from their peers. Rather, they tended to have a relatively large-sized social network and also seemed to enjoy relative popularity in their peer networks. Additionally, they tended to be gregarious with other high-achievers. Importantly, certain school contexts facilitated the nonexistence of an “acting white” labeling practice and a peer isolation culture in the school. Specifically, the “acting white” phenomenon may not be applicable to a small and racially/ethnically homogenous school where an academically-oriented and college-bound culture is shared by students.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-155
Number of pages34
JournalSchools: Studies in Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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