Guest blogger T. continues to educate over here at NLU and bring up valid reasons why the science and studies behind HBD aren’t as conclusive as HBDers would like everyone to believe. Just like there is no question that there is a difference between races and genetics makes up a part of that difference today T. shows how and why environment even more so than genetics makes up the other part. Poking holes at a famous study that HBDers love to throw around as an absolute truth behind HBD being irrefutable. We are introduced to sterotype threat and shown how our society uses it in the learning environment. Sit down class is in session.
(HBD because I read one study that proves everything… Any questions?)
In the past two installments we discussed Carol Dweck’s fixed mindset research, and how it affects both people with positive stereotypes about themselves and people with negative stereotypes about themselves. People with positive stereotype about themselves, such as a belief in their own natural, effortless superiority, begin to have problems once they face setbacks that make them start doubting whether those positive stereotypes are true for them after all.
Once someone with a fixed mindset faces an ego threat in the form of a perceived failure, they go into defensive mode. They focus on avoiding challenges so that they won’t be revealed to themselves or others as defective. They self-sabotage and subscribe to self-defeating beliefs that provide them with built-in excuses for failure (AKA Self-handicapping). They become pessimistic about life and feel helpless about their ability to improve. They start constantly blaming external forces and other people for their problems. They focus less on practical, realistic solutions. They become chronically angry and vengeful. They become both emotionally and physically violent. They develop dysfunctional, combative romantic relationships. They get lazier and resort to shortcuts, or even cheat or commit crimes, in order to maintain an image of effortless superiority. They behave more narcissistically. They focus more on maintaining their image via impression management than with achieving genuine growth.
The twist, though, is that these negative ramifications only begin coming to the surface when the image of natural superiority the fixed mindset person formed is threatened. So long as everything is going well and there are no setbacks, all these negative ramifications don’t come to the surface for the most part. Once the do setbacks happen, however, they go from being afraid of losing a positive label and finding out it isn’t true to becoming afraid of earning a negative label and proving that true. It’s at that point that the negative side-effects really kick into high gear. They also become afraid to work twice as hard, because having to resort to working harder registers as just more proof of being defective.
Stereotype Threat, a concept largely developed in research papers by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson, but followed up on in hundreds of studies, has to do with the fixed mindset in people who start off from the very beginning with the fear of earning a negative label and proving it to be true. Unlike the previously described students who start out in life believing they were naturally superior and are originally working with a positive label, these people always felt they were working with and against a negative, unchangeable label from the very beginning. Thus they started displaying the negative side-effects of the fixed mindset right from the very start. You can find a summary of stereotype studies here. [This link contains names of and summarizes all the references, over 110 studies and books in all. Rather than me listing them all out exhaustively, I decided to just refer to this summary and the bibliography at the end of it to supply the supporting research.]
Another interesting stereotype threat finding is that you don’t have to personally buy into a stereotype to be affected by it. For example, if a white guy doesn’t tip at a restaurant, he’s just viewed as an individual who didn’t tip. But a black person knows that if he doesn’t tip, he will be viewed as a “typical black guy” and as confirmation of a stereotype. For the white guy, it would be seen as a personal choice. For the black guy, it would be viewed as fundamental defect of his very identity and the added burden of contributing to the negative image of his whole race. There are tons of little concerns like this that come across the mind of many black people throughout a day, especially when middle class or higher. They may walk around cognizant of it and always overcompensating to avoid being mistaken for the stereotype.
Also interesting is another phenomenon related to stereotype threat, which is the Pygmalion Effect. Pygmalion Effect is described in this link I just provided on page 438.
[I]n a recent study, Arnold and Cross (2003) had teachers rank-order the children in their Head Start classes with respect to their interest in math activities. The teachers rated the Asian children as far more interested than African American or Anglo children, quite in line with the stereotypical image of Asians as math-oriented. But the picture in the teachers’ heads was misleading: Expert objective observers found nothing to confirm the teachers’ rankings of math orientation—neither the children’s self-reports nor objective recordings of children’s observed interest in playing math games revealed any differences. The black and Latino kids liked math just as much as the Asian kids, but the teachers missed it.
The problem, as we know from years of research, is that these distorted perceptions are not inert; people act upon them, treating the targets as if the stereotypes are true. Beginning with Rosenthal’s Pygmalion studies (Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968; Rosenthal, 2002), research shows that stereotyped expectations shape social interactions and over time can resuit in the stereotype’s fulfillment, a process knowrn as a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Specifically, if a student’s social identity suggests high ability, interest, or potential, he or she may be treated accordingly by a teacher—receiving more warmth, more chalienging material, more patience, and so on—and over time, develop into the bright student the teacher imagined initially. By the same token, negative expectancies based on group réputation can have the opposite effect, leading a teacher to create a colder, less chalienging environment for students from these groups. For example, teachers in a study by Brophy and Good (e.g., 1974), treated differently students they had labeled as strong or weak. When a “strong” student faltered, say, during a reading task, teachers were more likely to give subtle clues until the student came upon the solution. When a “weak” student faltered, teachers were more likely to simply supplv the correct answer. thus depriving the student of the opportunity to build skill and a sense of accomplishment. The process can be subtle and nonverbal, and it can occur without intention among individuals who consciously (and even adamantly) reject the stereotyped notions (Darley & Gross, 1983; Word, Zanna, & Cooper, 1974; Fazio, Jackson, Dunton, Sc Williams, 1995).
Or to put it more simply, when you stereotype or typecast another person, you start treating them differently. When you treat them differently and develop different expectations for them, you create a different environment for them, even within the same classroom, household, or family. The pygmalion effect doesn’t just work for creating a negative fixed mindset in minority children, but it also likely contributes to the positive fixed mindset that many white children develop.
Another way teachers can accidentally reinforce a negative fixed mindset was discussed in the Dweck research: by giving praise that’s insincere and unearned, just to bolster a student’s self-esteem. Praise must be specific, earned, and sincere, and must praise effort rather than innate ability in order to be effective. Otherwise it may excite suspicions of being inauthentic and be viewed as proof that the praise is not genuine and is in fact “pity praise.” The teacher who accepts the stereotype and acts harsher and the bleeding heart teacher who overcompensates against stereotyping with unearned, nonspecific praise can both end up increasing stereotype consciousness.
One popular study HBD people love is the Minnesota Transracial Adoption study, which supposedly proves conclusively that improving environments doesn’t improve black academic performance, because the black kids in the study who were adopted by white middle class parents didn’t improve much compared to black kids raised by black parents. HBD people like to argue that this shows black IQ inferiority is genetic in nature because despite a positive change in environment, black IQ performance remains largely the same.
However is the case so open and shut? Is it a slam dunk for genetic determinism or are there other plausible explanations worth exploring? Is it possible that the change in environment didn’t actually change the area that needed to be changed the most: whether or not the black kids still had a negative fixed mindset?
For example, why is it that African and Caribbean immigrants, despite also being descended from Sub-Suharan Africans, are often able to excel in American schools, despite the fact they are often said to have just much if not more African genetics than African-Americans, the fact that they have two Black parents, the fact they often grow up with less resources, and the fact they grew up with mostly black teachers? What I propose is, maybe a major contributing factor to the difference in academic performance relates to the fact that African and Caribbean immigrants don’t subscribe to stereotypes and the negative fixed mindset to the same extent that African-Americans do, and that plays an important role.
A big part of stereotype threat is the fear of proving your inferiority, especially in the presence of the people you fear are stereotyping you and who you fear may believe they are superior. For example there have been stereotype threat studies done of white athletes who believes that they were naturally genetically inferior to blacks in athletics. It was found that these white athletes performed much worse when being evaluated by black coaches than when evaluated by white coaches, presumably due to heightened anxiety at what the black coaches would think.
Since Caribbean and African immigrants grow up mostly among blacks, this fear of messing up in front of White people and of proving their inferiority is not something they grow up as consumed by compared to American blacks. Because they don’t grow up in a majority-White country that had such an ugly, racist history that involved hundreds of years of slavery, then lynchings and Jim Crow, then the Great Society,they don’t have the same racism fixations that American-born blacks have. Their parents weren’t constantly warning them about white racism because interacting wth whites wasn’t a huge part of their daily lives. Since everyone around them was largely black, they were freer to focus on other forms of comparison, such as class and wealth. Their teachers were primarily black so there was less chance of experiencing Pygmalion Effect from the teachers due to being black, since the teachers themselves did not subscribe to stereotypes strongly.
Recently, there was a controversial Superbowl commercial by Volkswagen about Jamaicans. Many African-Americans found it to be racist. Also, many White Americans also found it to be incredibly racist, especially White liberals. However, what was really interesting is that Jamaicans themselves by and large didn’t find it to be racist at all. They mostly just laughed it off. News outlets kept reporting that Jamaicans found the ad hilarious. Athlone McGuinness, who is of Jamaican descent, also weighed in on how the ad wasn’t racist. All my Jamaican friends felt similarly.
But what it did show was how engrained stereotype obsession is in America, both among whites and among blacks. Americans, both white and black, spend a lot of mental energy either consciously avoiding any discussion of stereotypes, reveling in discussing stereotypes, or overcompensating against stereotypes. When it comes to being cognizant and hyperaware of racial stereotype concerns, African-Americans are surprisingly more similar to White Americans than they are to Caribbeans.
So given that race and stereotypes are an obsession among Black Americans and White Americans, and given the findings of the stereotype threat and Pygmalion effect studies, isn’t it very possible that white adoptive parents in America may be transmitting stereotype fears into the black kids in much the same way that black parents do, and that’s why African-American students still do bad either in African-American households or White American households? Is it possible that the negative fixed mindset ends up affecting the African-American students despite the color of the parent, given that both African Americans and White Americans are both extremely stereotype conscious, as shown by their reactions to the VW ad? And if it’s possible these things played a role, and if Caribbean and African immigrants give us evidence that people with Black genes and less stereotype concerns are capable of superior academic performance, isn’t it to early to say these adoption studies are conclusive proof that genetics are the sole reason for the results?
Also, even though there are white kids with white middle-class parents and black kids with adoptive white middle-class parents, can we truly say they share the same environment given what we know about fixed mindsets, stereotype threat, and pygmalion effects? For example have you seen two siblings grow up in the same household, but one is treated like the golden child while the other like a scapegoat pariah? Sometimes even the same house and same parents can still be a different environment to two different people. So if a black kid is being raised by adoptive middle-class white parents and going to predominately white schools, given how he is likely not treated exactly the same as a white children being raised by their natural parents and going to a predominately white school. It’s the same place, but it’s not the same environment. And it doesn’t have to be deliberate, overt mean-spirited racism that causes the problems. It could even be the perception of benign racism in the form of lowered expectations of him by his adoptive white parents and teachers that could make him excessively self-conscious about stereotypes, or negative fixed mindsets. Much like African-American parents studied were shown to have lowered expectations for the academic performance of their kids than White and Asian parents did for their own kids, an adoptive White parent to an African-American kid may also show signs of having lowered expectations for the adopted Black kid than for his natural-born children.
Meanwhile, ask most American-born children of African or Caribbean parents whether their parents held them to lowered standards for academic performance. Although I speak anecdotally based on my own experiences and those of others like me I know, I’m pretty sure the answer is usually no. I can also say that I, nor my cousins, were not especially raised to obsess over white racism in the way that I noticed many of my African-American black friends were. In fact, my unwillingness to use the race card as much as they did was often a source of disagreement with us. And I don’t find I was an anomaly in this respect.
Consider this quote from this Larry Elder article:
The Democratic Party relies on the massive black vote, and does so by creating this “victicrat” mentality. In a “Spirit of Democracy Symposium on Diversity,” the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation complained about the failure of African and Caribbean immigrants to see themselves as black, and thus, recognize the “racism” they face in the job market. The Washington Times’ Steve Miller writes, “U.S. black leaders have failed to get African and Caribbean immigrants to think of themselves as ‘black’ and have created a rift among the groups.” Miller quotes William Spriggs, executive director of the National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality: “Black politicians … haven’t been able to get (black immigrants) to buy into what white America is all about, about what white privilege is. Immigrants don’t come here with that understanding. We have to change our language to let them know that these are their problems.”
Here’s the problem. African and Caribbean immigrants do well. According to the Associated Press, income for blacks from the Caribbean and Africa averages $40,000, $7,000 higher than “African-Americans.” They also have more education, suggesting – gasp – a link between education and income. In short, unlike many indigenous “African-Americans,” blacks from the Caribbean and Africa do not see themselves as “victicrats.”
This isn’t to say that somehow Caribbeans and Africans are inherently superior to African-Americans. They just have very different histories and environments that led to very different results in how they view both themselves and white people. They subscribe much stronger to the negative fixed mindset than Africans and Caribbean immigrants do, and for understandable reasons, given much of their history in this country. American Blacks have been forced to be hyperconscious about race, stereotypes, the stigmas attached to them, and what whites think of them to an extent that Caribbean and African Blacks haven’t. It was something that was once a very necessary survival mechanism but that has now become maladaptive. This leads them to fall into many of the same fixed mindset behaviors Dweck discussed in relation to “smart” kids with positive fixed mindsets: self-sabotage (like self-handicapping by not adequately preparing for challenges, just so they can have an excuse ready), increased blaming behavior (like blaming almost everything on racism), low confidence, increased cheating and criminality, overcompensation with increasingly narcissistic behavior (look at all the extreme bragging and showing off in black music and the ghetto for example), contentious romantic relationships, looking for and justifying shortcuts and shying away from challenges for fear of failing (the continued unwillingness to let go of Affirmative Action), etc.
When African and Caribbean immigrant parents have children in America, with each generation they tend to identify more with American-born blacks. And sure enough, the academic performance differences between the immigrant blacks and the African-American blacks lessens with each successive generation born in America as a result. This to me also shows the possibility that the environment of growing up in America and absorbing its attitudes about stereotypes probably plays a role.
Now I want to make clear: I am not trying to argue a blank slate argument, or claim that genetics have no effect on IQ levels within populations. I am trying to show that the implications of all the research is far more complicated and less one-sided than HBDers try to portray, and I want to show that there are many plausible, extensively researched, possible contributing factors besides genetic determinism to consider when discussing many of the studies HBDers love to refer to. All of these need to be explored before anyone can conclusively blame genetic destiny for the problems of blacks. Also, I ‘m not trying to argue that America is a nasty racist place where all of the problems of Blacks are still largely the result of racist Whites. What I am trying to say is that Americans, both of White and Black descent, tend to be more hyperconscious of stereotype and race implications of many seemingly innocuous events in ways that many non-Americans aren’t, and perceive racism more, whether it’s real or not.
Also, before anyone tries to use this article to claim that it justifies segregation, diversity is something that has long left Pandora’s box and isn’t getting stuffed back in. The same HBD people who love to bash diversity and its effects are often the same ones who love to brag about White contributions to technology, progress, capitalism, and exploration. Well guess what? Those same forces you’re so proud of the same ones that created the diversity “problem” in the first place. When exploration and colonization create a path to travel to another land, they also create a path for people from that land to eventually travel back in the opposite direction. If you build a bridge to connect to and travel to somewhere else, it’s inevitable people from that place are going to cross it in reverse as well. Capitalism, technology, and progress create a pressure to find the cheapest labor possible, and an incentive to import cheap labor, beginning with African slaves, then with the poor European immigrants, and continuing to this day with Hispanic illegals. If HBD people want to trumpet white contributions to capitalism, innovation, exploration, and progress, they have to take ownership for diversity as well, and realize that the exact same things they brag about are what made diversity an irreversible inevitability.