Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Influence of Stereotype Threat on the Responses of Black Males at a Predominantly White College in the South

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Influence of Stereotype Threat on the Responses of Black Males at a Predominantly White College in the South

Article excerpt


Stereotype threat surmises that African American students, when cognizant of the fact that a standardized test, task, or their mere presence, can in some way be perceived to measure their intelligence/value, will experience anxiety regarding their ability to perform in academic settings (Steele & Aronson, 1995).

This article examines the influence of stereotype threat on the experiences of African American males, as a marginalized group, at a predominantly White college in the South. The presence of African American males on a predominantly White college campus facilitates the creation of a milieu in which "by their mere presence, negative stereotypes are in the air" (Deaux, Bikmen, Gilkes, Ventuac, Joseph, Payne, & Steele, 2007, p. 386).

This study represents a unique application of stereotype threat. This research was influenced by Steele and Aronson's (1995) classic study and subsequent works that applied stereotype threat in distinct ways. Steele and Aronson's (1995) effort "focused on the immediate situational threat that derives from the broad dissemination on one's group--the threat of possibly being judged and treated stereotypically, or of possibly self-fulfilling such a stereotype" (p. 798). In a different application of stereotype threat, Deaux et al. (2007) evaluated how negative caricatures of African Americans affected first and second generation West Indian immigrants' overall educational and occupational attainment. Spencer et al. (1999) analyzed how when members of a group are negatively stereotyped in a social setting, the associated stigma carried an extra burden to perform well, which subsequently impaired their performance. Third, Massey and Fischer (2005) conducted a study of several thousand African American and Latino college students emphasizing the psychological impact of stereotype threat on their grade point averages at twenty-eight PWIs. This manuscript focuses on how the 'stereotyped presence' of African American males can create an environment that is ripe for the presence of stereotype threat and possibly impact social adjustment and grades (Feagin, 1998; Rodgers & Summers, 2008). Finally, this study differs from others which have employed stereotype threat (e.g., Steele & Aronson, 1995, Sigelman & Tuch; Torres & Charles, 2004) by accentuating how perceptions of racism and negative stereotypes at a PWI in the South create a situation ripe for the presence of stereotype threat on a small case study of African American male students. Thus, the foundational research question for this study was, "what is the possible influence of stereotype threat on adjustment and academic success for African American male college students at a PWI in the South?"

Foundation for the Present Study

African American college students graduate at a rate of 39.5% within a six year period (Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 2012). Despite the fact that this percentage represents an increase over a few years ago, this percentage still lags behind that of Whites students who graduate at a rate of 61.5 % (Hoston, Graves, & Fleming-Randle, 2010; Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 2012; Robertson, 2012). Furthermore, Black men graduate from college at a rate of 36% compared to 47% for Black women (Robertson & Mason, 2008). Lastly, over 80% of Black students attend predominantly White colleges and universities (Hoston et al, 2010).

Review of Literature

The review of literature centered largely on the perception of African American males as a marginalized group and on the variables identified by Solorzano et al. (2000), Robertson et al. (2005), Rodgers & Summers (2008), and Guiffrida & Douthit (2010) as pertinent to the social adjustment/matriculation of African American males at PWIs. The logic for using the variables identified in the aforementioned studies, and excluding other variables, was that the factors included in the study most frequently appeared in the scholarly offerings on African American collegiate academic success. …

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