Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Stereotype Threat

Making my regular “rounds” reading items about race and identity, I came upon this interesting article today.
I have been reading as much as I can about deficit ideology and about  internalized racism that PoC carry as part of their own racialized selves. This article adds another layer to my understanding of the power of stereotypes:

For acclaimed social psychologist Dr. Claude Steele, the numbers just didn’t make sense. Why, he wondered, was the national college dropout rate for Black students 20 to 25 percent higher than that for whites even when those students were just as well-prepared for college, had no socioeconomic disadvantages and managed to get excellent SAT scores? And among those Black students who did finish college, why was their grade-point average consistently lower than white students?….According to Steele, one of the major barriers holding back the achievement of Blacks, women and other underrepresented groups is a phenomenon he calls “stereotype threat,” the threat of being viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype or the fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype.

I am particularly curious about this part of Dr. Steele’s research:

Over the past 20 years, Steele has conducted numerous studies to test his theory of stereotype threat. In one study, he asked two groups of Black and white college students to take a 30-minute test made up of questions from the verbal section of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The test was designed to be difficult and the results were shocking.

When one group was told the test would measure their intellectual ability, Black students underperformed dramatically. But when another group was told the test could not measure intellectual ability, Blacks and whites performed at virtually the same level.

“When you get ride of the stereotype threat and tell the students this is not a test of cognitive ability, it’s just a puzzle, have fun—that small instruction makes the stereotype irrelevant,” Steele said. “When you create that situation, their performance goes up to match that of white students.”

Read the whole article here – and then consider, if you will, how as an educator I (and we) might help our female students and students of color (the 2 underperforming groups) perform better and with less internal stereotype fear on those major tests (like the SAT and ACT) and in their everyday work? I am going to pick up a copy of Steele’s book, Whistling Vivaldi. (ETA: book purchased)


Wordless Wednesday

Why Time Wise Rocks My World…and why understanding white privilege matters

Imagine: Protest, Insurgency and the Workings of White Privilege

By Tim Wise

April 20, 2010

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure—the ones who are driving the action—we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters—the black protesters–spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters–these black protesters with guns–be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a black rap artist were to say, in reference to a white politician and presidential candidate: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” And what would happen to any prominent liberal commentator who then, when asked about that statement, replied that the rapper was a friend and that he (the commentator) would not disavow or even criticize him for his remarks. Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said in 2007 about Barack Obama, and that’s how Sean Hannity responded to Nugent’s remarks when he was asked about them.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister–who also works for the organization–defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough–“living fossils” as he called them–“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.*

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?
To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.
Game Over.

Transracial Parenting

I just love this mom’s voice.
While my son is 2, he will be a big boy in no time.
I  hope moms like LuLu keep talking so I can keep learning.

BTW, I did the implicit attitude test she refers to at the end of her post. I’ve read about this test and it was REALLY interesting to take it (I think the work is mentioned in the book Blink). You ought to take it – it will take 10 minutes and it’s very interesting.

Beach Bum – CA style

Santa Monica Beach, Spring Break 2010

Chico – and the work of Lee Mun Wah

Lee Mun Wah is one of my all time heroes and someone whose work has served as an example and and inspiration to me. Perhaps his movie, “The Color of Fear” is one of the most pivotal viewing experiences of my life. You might like to preview a powerful and stunning moment with this clip from youtube. It is a stunning 2 minutes, trust me. Then, go to your public library and rent this movie.

My admiration for this incredible man, Lee Mun Wah, turned into a FB friend request. I just wanted to ‘know’ him, even if the ‘knowing’ was a little glimpse of his musings through social networking media. It happened that I ‘friended’ him with a comment about how much I was looking forward to meeting him at the WPC, where he was in attendance and presenting.

Just this week Lee Mun Wah posted this article on his FB account. It’s the news story of a student leader at California State University who was stabbed and attacked. The allegations are that this is a racially motivated attack at it is being called a hate crime. Lee Mun Wah states, “…the comments [following the article] are telling of where we stand divided in this country on race relations. What are your thoughts?”

I ask you the same. I don’t care where these hate crimes occur – my neighborhood or yours. Every single one of them deserves our attention and our outrage.

P.S. I met the man in the youtube video, Victor Lee, at the conference too – and I friended him as well. I’m such a FB stalker of people I admire!

For the Birds

Our first birding this season outside of the pleasure of backyard birding. 
We walked this evening at Pheasant Branch. It was lovely.
I’m excited for the warbler migration – I always love this time of year for the warblers!
A hint of what’s to come tonight with a kinglet and a yellow rumped warbler. Nice firsts of the season.
But the highlight – was Blueberry’s delight, his running legs, his curiousity, his free spirit.
Fly baby!