A black head teacher told me a story of his early days at a failing inner-city school. The job was a thankless one and everybody was waiting anxiously for the arrival of the new ‘super-head’ (the school had gone through three leaders in two years). In the playground it was leaked that the new head was an old-school type from Jamaica.
During his first encounter with the students, they asked him how many children he had. He told them he had one and that she lived with him and his wife.
‘No sir, how many do you have in Jamaica?’ they asked. He replied: ‘None.’ They jeered, ‘Oh sir you’re not a yard man, not a real Jamaican — you’re acting white.’
This, I’m afraid, is typical. For black families in Britain and United States there has long been a dilemma: the more you adopt middle-class behaviours, the more you are perceived as ‘acting white’ and having betrayed your roots.