Free Racial Identity Threat in Psychology Essay Sample

Claude M. Steele is a great social psychologist who provides a clear account of a study that supports his revolutionary conclusions on identity and stereotypes. He highlights on the American social phenomena from gaps of gender and race in test scores to the credence in the superior athletic aptitude of black men (Steele, pp. 34-123). Steele managed to conduct his research based on various examples of gender and race with less time spent on other features of social identity. He further lays out a strategy for lessening the effects of stereotype threats and reshaping the identities of America all over again. Thus, this essay seeks to show that, racial identity threat is enough to prevent performance significantly but it can be averted with strategies put in place to overcome it.

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Racial identity threat like any other stereotype threat is an anxious experience and concern in a given situation where an individual has the prospective to authenticate a negative stereotype concerning their racial group. Generally, stereotype threat has been found to destabilize intellectual performance.  In the American society, students are normally required to take Graduate Record Examination (G.R.E) tests before they are admitted to colleges. In one of the researches done on the G.R.E test, European-American and African-American college students recorded varying results on different situations. Based on national averages, the African-American students recorded less marks than their European-American counterparts (Steele, pp. 613-629). 

On the G.R.E test, Steele and his colleague Aronson altered the test instructions to make the participants change the notion that the test was measuring their intellectual performance. It was surprising to see how the racial identity threat had affected the performance of the African-Americans. On the latter situation the difference in performance was very small. From this experiment that was conducted by Steel and his colleague, racial identity threat impacted performance negatively (Steele, pp. 613-629). It was therefore concluded that concerns about negative stereotype could be changed if instructions were altered. However, the whole issue was about the negative stereotype about racial groups concerning a particular subject or assignment (Johns et al., pp. 175-9).

Racial identity threat is caused by individuals who authenticate a negative stereotype concerning their race. The predisposition to such negative stereotype would adversely affect the individual concerned. The people who regard the G.R.E test and more especially the African-Americans as an intelligence measure usually have a lot of thoughts pertinent to the negative stereotypes of their race. Overcoming racial identity threat is a very prudent way of attaining social integration in the community. It goes past the statistics and makes it possible for individuals to succeed in an integrated setting despite their racial predispositions. The performance of either blacks or whites in different settings has been influenced by racial identity threat (Steele, pp. 613-629).

Stereotype threat is not merely limited to groups that have been disadvantaged from historical times

People from all races suffer a particular stereotype threat in their own specific contexts (Maass et al, pp. 231-245). For instance, a study conducted to test stereotype threat amongst white students of an engineering class seemed to perform worse than their Asian counterparts on initial information that Asians had previously performed better than the whites. The whites could have performed better if such information was not available. Therefore, racial identity threat has very detrimental effects on the performance of the members of the society. It does not affect a particular group but affects us all (Steele, pp. 613-629).

At an institutional level, there is need to promote “identity safety”. It is very important for the members of the society to endeavor to establish the different integral values and social identities to a social setting (Steele, pp. 613-629). The best way to deal with racial identity threat is through building a diverse society and community that upholds respect and value for others. Encouraging development and the well being of all members in the society is one of the most excellent ways to deal with racial identity threat. Well, some people may be resilient enough not to authenticate negative stereotyping. However, there are those that are susceptible to negative stereotype and may succumb to the pressures of negative stereotype threat and consequently affect their performance (Steele, Racial Identity and Academic Achievement).

When the racial identity of an individual is associated to a negative stereotype, that individual will most likely under-perform in a way that is consistent with the negative stereotype. This is more especially if the person will make it a reality in his or her life of which the chance of authenticating the negative stereotype is very high on each person who faces it. The underperformance in most cases is contributed by the anxiety of an individual to conform to the stereotype that he or she has been branded with. Underperformance on such cases not necessarily occasioned by the individual’s inability but through the fear that is generated by the negative stereotype. The anxiety that is caused by the negative stereotype is manifested through different ways like increased temperature of the body and distraction. These factors have been the major causes of diminishing levels of performance.  It was previously thought that racial identity threats affected blacks only who have been historically disadvantaged but that is not true as it affects people from all races (Walton and Cohen, pp. 82-96).

In conclusion, racial identity threat is enough to prevent performance significantly

However, it can be averted if the members of the race branded with the negative stereotype do not yield to its pressure.  Negative stereotype causes anxiety and distracts an individual from giving the concentration needed to successfully tackle the assignment or duty at hand. Racial identity threat can thus be dealt with at the society level if members respect and value each other.


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