ALGERNON AUSTIN – TRUTH AND LIES ABOUT “ACTING WHITE” (MF GALAXY 033)

The appalling distortions US Black public intellectuals are spreading about Africans in the US




If you watch or listen to the news, read magazines or popular books on current events, or perhaps simply check out movies, video games, or music videos, you’ve probably formed a number of conceptions of quality of life among Africans in the United States. Everyone knows, for instance, that teen pregnancy and out of wedlock births are increasing, violence and poverty are increasing, that post-secondary enrollment is down, high school completion and grades are down, and literacy, voting, and self-respect is down. Everybody knows all the above is true. And everybody is wrong.


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Sadly, many of the people who believe the above myths are the Black public intellectuals of the United States. Some are conservatives in the service of right wing think tanks. Others define themselves as progressives or even revolutionaries. Still others are popular entertainers who’ve been paid spokesmen for White corporate America.

Thankfully, some academics are using the modest and sensible tools of research to counter reaction.

The 2007 book Getting it Wrong: How Black Public Intellectuals Are Failing Black America by sociologist Algernon Austin corrects myths about African Americans and crime, educational decline, so-called “cultural deficiency,” racial self-hatred, and the alleged scourge of “acting White.” 

Sociologist Algernon Austin is the author of Getting It Wrong: How Black Public Intellectuals Are Failing Black America, the director of the Thora Institute, and the editor of Black Directions, the Institute’s reports on social issues affecting African Americans. He's also the former director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy, and was a senior fellow at the Dēmos think tank. He’s taught sociology at DePaul and Wesleyan universities.

This episode’s interview comes from the 16th sub-basement of the archives at the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. I originally interviewed Dr. Austin by telephone on September 16, 2007; he spoke with me by telephone from his home in Connecticut.

Our conversation cites Bill Cosby. Back in 2007, long before the public disgracing of Bill Cosby over numerous rape allegations, Cosby was in the public eye for what has come to be known as the “Poundcake” lectures, which were either calls for personal responsibility by, or attacks on, poor African Americans.

Algernon Austin begins by discussing the causes of increasing success of African students in the United States. 

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