With the school (and homeschool) year starting back up, I wanted to circle back to a section of my second book, Gifted, Bullied, Resilient: A Brief Guide for Smart Families, and touch upon the “gifted cubed” idea.
Today mainstream media enforces cultural stereotypes about gifted minorities. You have likely encountered the “nerdy Asian male” trope in films; he is often the smart first-generation-American kid with the pushy parents. Perhaps you recall Steve Urkel from the old “Family Matters” comedy show, the extroverted young black man who was bullied for his geekiness and overbearing nature. Fictional though these depictions may be, they do reinforce negative attitudes about smart children and teens.
Sometimes stereotypes obtain a veneer of “truth.” For example, many in education circles hold a pervasive belief that black students underperform academically from fear of being shamed for “acting white.” This idea is used to explain the gap in achievement between the school performance of white and black students. Interestingly, as Ivory A. Toldson, a Howard University professor and senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote in 2013 for The Root, the issue is not about people shaming all bright black students but specifically the “nerdy” ones:
In my own research, I have noticed a “nerd bend” among all races, whereby high—but not the highest—achievers receive the most social rewards. For instance, the lowest achievers get bullied the most, and bullying continues to decrease as grades increase; however, when grades go from good to great, bullying starts to increase again slightly. Thus, the highest achievers get bullied more than high achievers, but significantly less than the lowest achievers.
Toldson’s comment dovetails with statistics elsewhere about bullying and the acceptance (or lack thereof) of highly and profoundly gifted children and teens. Absent from his insightful analysis is mention of twice-exceptional children, be they of Asian-American, Latino/a, Native American, or African-American descent (or any other underrepresented group).
Fortunately, blogger and gifted advocate Doresa Jen has coined a term to help us all understand the plight of 2e minority students: “gifted cubed.” A dyslexic university professor and homeschool mom of three black and profoundly gifted kids, Jen has a unique perspective to share about racial and gifted identities. In early 2015 she helped create a GHF brochure (Spanish version) for educators about “gifted cubed.” During a Twitter-based discussion called #GTCHAT in honor of the brochure’s release, Jen shared several observations from direct experience:
• Society sends so many messages about what [gifted] is supposed to look like—including what color, ethnicity, etc.
• Communities of color have cultural norms [that] don’t always buy into the popular understanding of giftedness.
• Often kids who “look different” from others their age/level of ability are seen as misbehaving or even pathological.
• [Gifted people of color] have to know giftedness is an “and also” part of themselves, not a replacement of their culture/race/ ethnicity.
While their own parents may be aware of the intense, complex social pressures gifted-cubed children face, it is time the wider gifted advocacy community give them greater recognition and support. In so doing, we can help cut the risk of their experiencing bullying.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the “gifted cubed” concept in comments.
Related & Relevant on RedWhiteandGrew.com:
• For links to purchase my 2015 book about bullying, visit my Books page.
• GHF: Gifted Homeschoolers Forum is the parent organization to my publisher, GHF Press. They also have some outstanding blog links brochures on this and related topics. Of special note to parents and educators are Bullying Across the Gifted/2e Lifespan and Gifted Cubed: Race & Culture,