Is the acting white hypothesis empirically viable? The strong version of this hypothesis—that African American students are negatively sanctioned by peers for academic success, while their similar white peers are not sanctioned—misses the possibility that some students preemptively pull back academic effort without having received sanctions. This article tests a weak version of the hypothesis—that some academically engaged African American students perceive the costs of peer sanctions to be sufficiently high to scale back overt academic engagement before receiving peer sanctions. The weak version predicts sufficiently high costs of sanctions in schools with racialized social norms about academic engagement. The author uses multilevel modeling to test strong and weak versions of the hypothesis on a nationally representative sample of African American and white students. While the results do not support the strong version of the acting white hypothesis, they point to a mild form of the weak version of the hypothesis.
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