Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Intelligence’

‘A black overachiever’

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2017 at 2:18 pm

It is with great trepidation that I choose to write about writing about race. I understand this is a tinderbox topic and that it’s very easy to veer off the page and turn a critique of adjectives and nouns into accusations of racism and worse.

But I’m going to broach the topic anyway, because words matter.

Recently, I had occasion to write a Wick columnist — not an employee, mind you, but a contributor — who had referred to someone as “a black overachiever.” The term was meant as a compliment and the subject was a national public figure. I don’t think the writer intended anything mean-spirited by coupling those words, but it struck me wrong. So I wrote him a note, a bit of it reprinted here:

By any standard, XXXX is an achiever. He is a resounding voice respected by many for his intellect. But by modifying achievement with his “blackness” you A) create the impression that it’s somehow surprising that a black man could overachieve, B) suggest that he is only an overachiever when you consider his race, and C) overemphasize his race entirely. I’m guessing you would appreciate what he said regardless of his race.

To me the test is this: Would you ever write the words “white overachiever?” Would you say, for instance, that Bill Gates is a white overachiever?

To his credit, the columnist wrote me back and admitted that he makes that mistake from time to time. He took the criticism in the spirit that it was intended, even if he didn’t agree with me entirely.

Fair enough.

But he also defended the construction. He said he might refer to a “white overachiever,” for example, in professional sports, because he thinks black folks have a genetic predisposition toward athletics. Which is a whole ’nother topic, as they say. (Whatever the arguments there might be concerning physiology, you would have to take into consideration socio-economic factors, cultural mores, discrimination that precludes success in other avenues and myriad other considerations to have an intelligent conversation about that…) … Read the rest of this entry »

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How smart are you?

In Books on September 25, 2009 at 8:37 am

Hey, you think you are smart? If so, some researchers say that may be an impediment to becomingMindsetCover smarter still.

Well, not exactly. But there is emerging research that shows that if you think intelligence is something that is gained rather than god-given you are more likely to strive for greatness in the wake of preliminary disappointment.

So? What does that have to do with journalism? Well, because the way newsroom employees are encouraged – the way you think about success yourself – can have profound effects on your newspaper’s ability to be agile in a changing world.

In her book, “Mindset, The New Psychology of Success,” Stanford professor Carol Dweck talks about “growth” vs. “fixed” mindsets. To oversimplify: If your opinion of your smarts is fixed, you are finished growing. Conversely, if you think you can still grow your intelligence, you will know that your potential is not fixed. She notes that it takes time and loads of effort to be really good at anything – that includes becoming the best writer or editor you can be.

Dweck also says that you have to be careful how you praise the people around you if you want them to grow. Don’t say, “Wow, that’s a really great story. You’re such a great writer.” Say, “Wow, that’s a really great story. You must have worked really hard to make it so.”… Read the rest of this entry »