Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why children discriminate  

There's an interesting article in Newsweek, entitled "See Baby Discriminate." It explores how and why babies and toddlers see differences between white people and people of color. The article cites several different studies that tested how children see race, similar to the infamous black doll vs. white doll study:

Most studies seem to go somewhat like this:

Vittrup's first test of the kids revealed they weren't colorblind at all. Asked how many white people are mean, these children commonly answered, "Almost none." Asked how many blacks are mean, many answered, "Some," or "A lot." Even kids who attended diverse schools answered the questions this way.

Not surprising. Racism is a cycle, perpetuated by parents passing on either their racist views or their let's-never-talk-about-race philosophy:

Combing through the parents' study diaries, Vittrup realized why. Diary after diary revealed that the parents barely mentioned the checklist items. Many just couldn't talk about race, and they quickly reverted to the vague "Everybody's equal" phrasing.

Of all those Vittrup told to talk openly about interracial friendship, only six families managed to actually do so. And, for all six, their children dramatically improved their racial attitudes in a single week. Talking about race was clearly key.


Others think it's better to say nothing at all about the president's race or ethnicity—because saying something about it unavoidably teaches a child a racial construct. They worry that even a positive statement ("It's wonderful that a black person can be president") still encourages a child to see divisions within society.

The fact of the matter is... there are divisions within society. I think more than anything it's important to educate our children about prejudice and stereotypes and injustice so they can understand what they will encounter out in the world.

If I ever have a daughter, I plan to sit her down and explain, "Some people might try to make you feel like you can't do certain things because you're a girl, but know that you can do anything you put your mind to. Don't let them get you down." To me, ignoring the state of our society is a surefire way to end up with confused children who think "black people are mean." Talking is key.

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6 comments: to “ Why children discriminate

  • September 12, 2009 at 9:16 PM  

    Right on, we talked about how even though people said otherwise, people of different genders and races were every bit as smart, talented, and kind as people who looked like us kids.

  • September 16, 2009 at 2:01 AM  

    The media has to take a lot of the blame, too. It's rare to see a toy or a doll, advertised on television, that is colored. If they do advertise a colored doll they usually are seen with white dolls and are usually not the main focus in the advertisement. What's a kid to think?

    On a different note. I remember a while back I was talking to a random woman I met in a store. She talked about how her daughter had a child with a black man, and then had a child with a white man. The black child was ashamed of her color and wished she was white like her sister. It broke my heart hearing that from the woman. But I soon became enraged when she said "This is why you should stick to your own race."

    No. I am white and I am engaged to a Hispanic, I am not ashamed of how my future kids will turn out and I embrace his culture as much as he embraces mine. So I don't believe that races should stick with their own.

    This is why the media should make advertisement for all races so they have nothing to be ashamed of.

  • September 16, 2009 at 2:44 AM  

    I agree, Luminairis. Far more often are white dolls advertised. One disturbing post in Sociological Images pointed out that sometimes white dolls are even PRICED HIGHER than black dolls ( Sigh.

  • December 18, 2011 at 3:25 AM  

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    All of them stood back to admire their handiwork. Nobody looking at these tents would guess they belonged to wizards, Harry thought, but the trouble was that once Bill, Charlie, and Percy arrived, they would be a party of ten. Hermione seemed to have spotted this problem too; she gave Harry a quizzical look as Mr. Weasley dropped to his hands and knees and entered the first tent.
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  • January 4, 2012 at 6:59 AM  

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    No. I am white and I am engaged to a Hispanic, I am not ashamed of how my future kids will turn out and I embrace his culture as much as he embraces mine. So I don't believe that races should stick with their own.