Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A positive way to fight stereotype threat

The racial segregation of friendship networks in college life means that when it comes to personal conversations, blacks talk mainly to blacks and whites to whites. Black students, then, might not be able to see that white students have problems similar to their own. And not seeing this, along with being more racially vigilant in light of the broader cites in the setting, they might see race as playing a bigger role in their experience—as something that would sustain greater vigilance toward the racial aspects of their experience. The talk sessions corrected this. They revealed that the stresses of college life—a lower test grade than expected, an unreturned call to a teaching assistant or classmate, an unfriendly interaction with another students a chronic shortage of cash, and so on—happen to everyone regardless of face, This fact changes black students' narrative; it makes racial identity less central to interpreting experience and increases trust in the university environment. Having a narrative that requires less vigilance leaves more mental energy and motivation available for academic work and thus improved the grades of black students in the program. 
Claude Steele, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010), p. 167

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