Experience with others because of what we know

Experience with Identity ThreatI attended an elementary school with many other Asian students. I never felt out of place and always had the same interests as my friends. But, this feeling changed when I moved to a different city for middle school. I was one of the only Asians in my grade, and the school was comprised of mostly Latinos. I quickly became introverted, I didn’t have friends, and I wanted to transfer. I was often stereotyped as being incredibly smart, acing all my tests, and studying all day; they also thought that I’d get in trouble with my parents if I didn’t get all A’s. In Whistling Vivaldi, Claude M. Steele introduces his own experience with being stereotyped, something that I can identify with. Throughout the book, he partners up with psychologists and professors from other universities to gain insight with his research. Steele’s research is defining stereotype threat, identity threat, contingencies, and what causes them. He talks about why African Americans underperform in school, and how impacting this is on the rest of their lives. Steele’s ultimate goal is to show how these threats can affect our personal and social lives, or even how we interact with others because of what we know of their group membership. I am most susceptible to the effects of identity threat when I am at school, because school is where most of the stereotypes I receive can be applied; despite feeling divided, I learned some solutions that’ll help, such as critical mass, and affirmations. Identity threat is when an individual senses that their group is being assessed negatively; similarly, they feel threatened to change their behavior and uphold a positive recognition of their group. One clear example of identity threat in the book is when an African American youth named Brent Staples is walking down the street in his casual clothes. He notices cues such as people linking arms, or cross the street when he comes near because they must think that he falls under the stereotype of African Americans being violence prone. He starts to whistle high-white classical music to give himself a sense of elegance because whistling was his way of changing his behavior. Identity threat causes problems such as underperformance, mental exhaustion, substitute identity, prejudice, and much more that takes a toll on people’s daily lives. My first time I felt identity threat happened when I moved to the new school, my science teacher divided everyone into groups, and each had to decide which task we wanted to take on. The group I was in was two long haired Latina girls and a white boy with beautiful eyes. Before I even got to input what task I wanted, one girl said that I should draw and be the leader because I’m “Asian and smart”. Because she didn’t know me, I felt annoyed; at that point, I had never had her in any of my classes, so she was going off based on the stereotype. Although I was given a heavier workload, I didn’t take part in the project because I wanted my teammates to realize even though they had someone Asian and dedicated to school, that that wouldn’t mean they would ace the project. Not wanting to be stereotyped that way, I acted lazy when normally I would’ve done the project and received a good grade. After reading Whistling Vivaldi I’ve thought that a good solution to this contingency would be removing the pressure of the task in general, this would help with my confidence, so my identity threat didn’t get in the way. Another good solution to this situation would have been critical mass. Steele explains, “The term “critical mass” refers to the point at which there are enough minorities in a setting…that individual minorities no longer feel uncomfortable there because they are minorities…they no longer feel an interfering level of identity threat” (135). I wouldn’t have felt as ashamed of who I am if I wasn’t the only one of my kind in the group. The second scenario happened at the beginning of a school year when the teachers have students get to know each other. She partnered us up and gave us a questionaire to ask each other. It included what you enjoyed studying and whether you liked school. I told my partner I enjoyed school and he said, “Of course, you’re Asian. Is math also your favorite subject?”. Even though I knew my partner didn’t mean harm when he asked if math was also my favorite subject, it upset me because he assumed math was my favorite subject as I fit the stereotype of Asians liking school. This comment caused me not to want to give people a hint of anything about my personality. My favorite subject at the time was English, and although math is my favorite subject now, I don’t tell them in fear of confirming that stereotype which might lead them to thinking all the other stereotypes appeal to me. As mentioned before, critical mass would be a good solution as well as being aware of my own emotions and giving myself affirmations. Once I’m in control of my emotions, I’m aware of how I’m thinking; moreover, helping me do better by relieving the stress I feel. We need to be cautious and aware of these stereotypes; how stereotyping affects us, and how we stereotype others without even knowing. Stereotype and identity threat cause underperformance in aspects of their lives, poor academic performance, they cause lingering health problems, they make people feel alienated, cause additional stress and anxiety, as well as contributing to segregation. This is important because these under performances and alienation causes someone to overachieve, or just not try at all to reach their full potential. Steele is trying to show us that even though these threats exist, we can cross the bridge and overcome them by being aware and implementing solutions.