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Reducing Stereotype Threat: A Cause Of The Mass Incarceration Rate Of African Americans

2425 words - 10 pages

Have you ever heard people ask, “Can you teach me how to solve this math problem?” to an Asian or “Do you play basketball?” to an African American? These are some examples of stereotypes that are casually said by people on the internet, in school, in movies, and many more. Some say it for comedic reasons, some say it to tease, and some say it because they really believe in those stereotypes. However, instead of throwing around these labels, people should see that this affects those labelled by those stereotypes. People affected by stereotypes are under what is called stereotype threat, which is being under the risk of confirming the negative stereotypes said about themselves, and in this case, their racial group. (Stroessner) This causes reactions like feeling anxiety and feeling pressured to conform to the reputation of their group, leading many to do things that they do not usually do or to perform worse than they usually do. Actions must be taken place because it is one of the explanations for why the majority of people in prison are African Americans. Many will say, “Why don’t we just inform everyone and educate the public about the negative consequences caused by stereotypes?” Sure it sounds like it could be a good start, because that is what everyone does at first: tell the public, make posters, hashtag the issue, and etc. but that might damage the situation more than it would help. The ineffectiveness of informing the public is explained simply by Mike Wallace’s interview with Morgan Freeman on “60 Minutes.” When he asked Morgan Freeman what we should do to get rid of racism, Freeman responded by saying, “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.” His answer was completely unexpected and it stirred up controversy in the public, but his answer to the question held the truth. The barrier between races is already made when we identify each other as the black man, the white man, or the insert-your-race man or woman. This is the same as stereotypes. By informing children and adults through whatever process, this will inform everyone - even those who did not have the stereotype mindsets - about the existence of stereotypes. The barriers will be made the instant they hear about these stereotype, because it will lead them to think about it more and unconsciously believe in those stereotypes. So we need a better plan. As long as stereotypes are around, there is no way of getting rid of stereotype threat. However, there are ways to reduce stereotype threats, and in this case, also reducing the number of African Americans in prison. This is by diversifying representation of people, especially African American minorities, in the police department.
Stereotype threat is a term first used in 1995 by Professor Claude Steele of Stanford University and Professor Joshua Aronson of University of Texas. They discovered this psychological experience when together they performed...

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