wherein stereotype threat is a violent tool of oppressors
November 28, 2012
So. There is this psychology theory (ugh, I know but sometimes it is useful) called stereotype threat:
Stereotype threat is the experience of anxiety or concern in a situation where a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their social group
Now, because this is a theory of social psychology, it is more usually discussed as a thing impacts marginalized peoples. As in, a Black person might perform poorly on a math test because they have added anxiety about how their performance on the test will reflect on their race.
It occurred to me earlier today that the common derail of tone policing in the form of “You are only hurting your cause by being so angry” or “behaving like this only makes your people look bad” and so on, is actual a weaponized version of this psychological state. It isn’t just that these people are trying to police your emotions and how you express them.
It is, of course, meant to silence. But it is also meant to silence you based on activating this anxiety or psychological state of stereotype threat. Meant to induce anxiety over whether or not your actions will negatively reflect on whatever marginalized group you belong to. It is an act of dehumanization, because it means that you can never be one person held accountable for your actions, but a representative for a group. Always.
More than that though, it isn’t merely a threat to you, as an individual. No, no. As we’ve seen from many a derailing asshole: once you are angry and refuse to allow your anger to be silenced by the tone argument, many an ‘ally’ will turn around and go: “well, I no longer care about you or your group.” While we know, already, that any person saying this never cared in the first place…
It tends to be effective because we don’t, in actual fact, want to make things harder for our people. Many of us want to do things that positively benefit ourselves and our people.
(er… I think I had more to say, but then I got to cooking and now I can’t remember. But, yeah, this is one of the ways that oppressive people oppress. and it isn’t just about policing tone, but about litterally triggering an anxiety they’ve purposefully instiled in all of us. because that is how this works, right?)