Date Completed: 5/30/2016
This book approached stereotypes from a new perspective. With an advanced degree in psychology, Steele takes readers on a narrative tour of his research into identity threatens stereotype bias that provides insights into underperformance and general difference in outcomes based on identity. Steele challenges the American interest in treating each person as an individual and proposes that our identities effect the way we move through the world and the pressure we feel based on stereotypes that surround the identities we hold.
Steele’s research provides new understanding of how race affects each of us in the 21st century. Although not the sole purpose of his research and findings around identity threat, race does play a big role in his research, importantly so as the term “post racial society” gets thrown around quite a bit, a point that Steele focuses in on in his final chapters. However, Steele makes clear that this research can be extrapolated to any identity that we hold depending on the situation that we are in, particularly anytime we are situationally a minority talking about a topic that draws on stereotypes of our group.
This book was well written to be read by anyone. Whether you believe in “post racial” America or you experience racial tension every day, this book will have something new to offer you. The research was straight forward, making it difficult to deny the results. I felt enlightened and understood completely, and I hope others will find similar solace. Steele writes about women’s experiences and various racial experiences that lead to a well balanced focus on race while maintaining that stereotype threat can happen to anyone who belongs to an identity group when they are in a situation that brings forward stereotypes about that group. I would encourage everyone to read this book and think about what makes you tick. Why do you act and react in certain ways? Self awareness, while often encouraged, is rarely backed up by research that is both validating and eye-opening, at least for me. Steele provides readers with a method of talking about things that we experience often through his research and discussion thereof.
Claude M. Steele is a social psychologist and worked at University of California Berkeley, both as a professor and as vice chancellor and provost. He’s worked at many prestigious universities including Stanford and Columbia and carried the thread of his research through his work at each.