Acting White? Rethinking Race in Post-Racial America, Devon W. Carbado and Mitu Gulati

Reviewed by Jennifer Hochschild



The number of publications arguing that the United States is not post‐racial despite twice electing Barack Obama to the presidency is many orders of magnitude greater than the number of publications claiming that the United States is post‐racial. In fact, it is difficult to find anyone asserting post‐raciality beyond one New York Times Magazine article and a few Fox News commen­tators around the 2008 election. Nevertheless, attacks on the purportedly common assumption continue.

Thus, it is a bit surprising to find, in yet another book challenging the idea of a post‐racial America, a somewhat novel argument. Acting White asserts that everyone seeking a job, college admission, elective office, or safe interactions with police must establish a Working Identity. It is “a set of racial criteria people can employ to ascertain not simply whether a person is black in terms of how she looks but whether that person is black in terms of how she is perceived” (p. 1). A Working Identity includes everything from hair and clothing style to social networks, marital choices, political opinions, accent, “and so on and so forth” (p. 1). That framework already suggests a tension in the book to which I return: it focuses primarily on the difficulties that a Working Identity creates for blacks, but

To continue reading, see options above.

More by This Author

Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes, Mark Robert Rank, Thomas A. Hirschl and Kirk A. Foster Reviewed by Jennifer Hochschild

Do Facts Matter? Information and Misinformation in American Politics, Jennifer Hochschild and Katherine Levine Einstein

Imagining America in 2033: How the Country Put Itself Together after Bush, Herbert J. Gans Reviewed by Jennifer Hochschild

Pluralism and the Politics of Difference: State, Culture, and Ethnicity in Comparative Perspective, Ralph Grillo Reviewed by Jennifer Hochschild

more by this author

About PSQ's Editor


Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.


A Purple Agenda For The Next Four Years
June 20, 2024
7:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m. ET


Editor’s spotlight

Virtual Issue

Introduction: Black Power and the Civil Rights Agendas of Charles V. Hamilton
Marylena Mantas and Robert Y. Shapiro


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

New APS Book

China in a World of Great Power Competition   CHINA IN A WORLD OF GREAT POWER COMPETITION

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS