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  • Writer's pictureLynn VanderWielen, PhD, MPH

Stereotype Threat

Stereotype threat is the experience of feeling fear or anxiety about confirming negative stereotypes about a part of your identity.

When it comes to our multiracial kids, stereotype threat can have a profound effect on their sense of self. It is not uncommon for us to hear how multiracial teens try to intentionally or subconsciously distance and distinguish themselves from their monoracial parts so that they are not seen as the negative stereotypes of parts of their identity. When multiracial young adults experience stereotype threat, it also can deeply impact their well-being. When multiracial young adults feel like they have to hide or mute a part of who they are to fit in or find acceptance, they often also feel guilt, shame, and lowered self-esteem.

The research article for today examined how school environment plays a role in stereotype threat for biracial students and results support the understanding that the context or environment plays an impactful role on identify the development for our multiracial kids. Biracial students in different environments (such as school diversity and achievement gaps) had different experiences around stereotype threat.

The researchers concluded that schools with more diversity are likely to create inclusive spaces for students with complex identities, such as our multiracial kids.

As your family may be exploring school options, consider a few questions:

  • What are the study body demographics, including the multiracial population?

  • What are the staff demographics, including multiracial individuals?

  • Does the school examine achievement gaps between racial groups? How does leadership interpret and act on these gaps? (This question can offer insight into biases held by leadership and how your child may be perceived within the classroom).

  • What curriculum is used to teach about equity?

  • Does the school have any limitations to what is taught about racism? (book bans, White-washed curriculum, etc.)

  • Does the school have any affinity groups, especially for those identifying as multiracial or mixed?

  • What Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging courses/education are required for staff?

  • What efforts are being made to advance equity and justice in the school?

When it comes to stereotype threat in school, talk about it with your kids! A few conversation starters:

  • What do you think your teachers think about you when they see you for the first time?

  • What words do you think your teachers would you to describe you?

  • Do you see any differences in how students are treated based on their racial or cultural identity? What does that look like in your school?

  • What do you think your teachers could do better to see and appreciate the lived experience of students?

  • What do you think your school could do better to see and appreciate the lived experience of students?

  • What can I do better to support you?

Join the Samahra Community today in our app to learn more about supporting your multiracial kids in their identity development. We are glad we are on this journey together!

Article Link

Citation: Rozek, C. S., & Gaither, S. E. (2021). Not quite white or black: Biracial students’ perceptions of threat and belonging across school contexts. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 41(9), 1308-1337.

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

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