How Stereotypes Defeat the Stereotyped

Even without the presence of overt racism, people who belong to stigmatized groups may be vulnerable enough to stereotypes that they thwart themselves

Illustration by Julien Pacaud for TIME

As explicit discrimination has receded in the last two decades, culminating in the elevation of an African-American to the Presidency, a woman to the House Speakership and a black woman to the galactic dominance known as being Oprah Winfrey, those who study the effects of racism and sexism have had to cope with a difficult question: If discrimination is less powerful, why do some groups in society continue to fare worse than others? Has bias merely become better hidden, or are there other forces at work?

One theory that has gained influence among sociologists is that some...

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