September 10, 2010

Back to school - back to success

It's back-to-school time. Let's help clear the way for our children to excel.

Did you know that when an exam is described as a test of intellectual ability, Black students tend to perform worse than White students?  When the test is described without reference to intellectual ability, Black students tend to perform the same as or better than White students. Researchers call this "stereotype threat." It's a harmful self-consciousness caused by a fear of confirming a negative stereotype about one's group. It can lead to anxieties that adversely affect student performance. Stereotype threat affects different people in different ways. It has been shown to affect women in math classes, White men who are compared to Asian men in terms of mathematical skill, and White people who are compared to Black people when it comes to sports ability.

In the case of Black students, stereotype threat can lead to a fear that they will reinforce negative stereotypes about the intellectual abilities of Black people. At the root of these negative stereotypes is the myth of black inferiority, which was introduced centuries ago to justify the enslavement and subjugation of Black people. That myth says, among other things, that Black people are not as smart as other people.

Too many of our children are still burdened by negative stereotypes about who they are and what they can or cannot achieve academically. It's time for us to unburden them. It's time for us to confront and work to overcome the myth of Black inferiority.

As your children get back into the swing of school this year, make it your business to learn more about stereotype threat and what you can do to reduce it or eliminate it in their lives.

Talk to your children's teachers and principals about stereotype threat and steps that schools can take to help eliminate it.  Ask them to review and tell you and the school community how they plan to implement the recommendations in the July 2009 report called “Reducing Stereotype Threat in Classrooms: A Review of Social-Psychological Intervention Studies on Improving the Achievement of Black Students.” 

For more information and ideas on reducing stereotype threat, visit

And make plans now to join in the celebration of Community Healing Days℠ --- three days set aside each year (on the third weekend of October) to celebrate healing for Black people and to work on overcoming the stereotypes and myths that keep us from reaching our full potential. 

Save the date. Put "time for healing" on your calendar. Celebrate Community Healing Days: Seeing Ourselves in a Whole New Light. October 16, 17, and 18, 2009

For more information on celebrating Community Healing Days, click here. Join the Community Healing Network conversation on Ning, Facebook, or Twitter. And please spread the word. Forward this email to your family and friends.

Thank you,

Enola Aird

President, Community Healing Network, Inc


Enola G. Aird is the founder and president of Community Healing Network, Inc., which is leading the global grassroots movement for emotional emancipation to overcome and overturn the lie of Black inferiority: the root cause of the devaluing of Black lives.