The stress of coping with racism may widen the achievement gap,writes Melinda D. Anderson in The Atlantic.
Blacks pump out more stress hormones than their white counterparts, researchers have found. That high level of stress can affect concentration, motivation and learning, according to a new Northwestern study.
Zion Agostini, 15, worries about being stopped by police on the way to Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, writes Anderson.
Once he arrives, the sophomore must go through a metal detector. He’s often late to his first-period class “because I’m being scanned four times because of the metal in my necklace or my keys,” he complains. “It does make it extremely hard to focus on the classwork … You’re upset, or sad, or just emotional about what just happened. It takes a while to settle.”
Blacks and Latinos encounter “perceived discrimination” and “the stress of confirming negative expectations about your racial or ethnic group,” researchers found.
. . . perceived discrimination from teachers was “related to lower grades, less academic motivation … and less persistence when encountering an academic challenge.”
The study also found that the anxiety surrounding the stereotype of academic inferiority undermined students performing academic tasks.
To reduce stress, some students decide they don’t care how they do in school, says co-author Emma Adam. That leads to lower performance. “Promoting positive ethnic racial identity would be one way to reduce those feelings of separation or exclusion and improve students’ ability to focus in the classroom.”