Time contributor and author Touré examines race and gender through the lens of basketball phenomenon Jeremy Lin's success. He discusses how hard low expectations based on our race or gender can be to conquer.
One of my favorite parts of the Jeremy Lin story is his victory over stereotype threat. Stereotype threat is the idea that we are all aware of the stereotypes that exist about our demographic group and we try to avoid fulfilling those pre-existing notions. We prefer to think of ourselves as individuals and feeling trapped within the limited expectations of our demo is demoralizing. We struggle to define ourselves apart from the expectations for our group, but as we fight to resist falling prey to fulfilling stereotypes our attention is split and thus performance can decline, which can increase anxiety about living down to the expectations we want to destroy. This potentially paralyzing fear is stereotype threat.
For example, black people know that we are stereotyped as intellectually inferior to whites and we know that stereotype is incorrect. But when we do the SAT or the LSAT or the physics final or any sort of pressurized intellectual test that is important to us, we are at risk of having our performance impaired by stereotype threat. We come to the moment wanting to do well for ourselves and to resist performing according to the stereotype and thus we have extra burdens. A white student can do the test without the fear of living down to the stereotype on their back, but the black student comes to the test with added intellectual baggage that can sap needed mental focus.
Read the entire story at Time.