Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Do Children See Race?

We are first introduced to race when we are younger and it grows more complex as we get older as the stereotypes and daily encounters we see are reinforced. I blame our elders for any notions instilled in the current generation that impedes or even improves a child's idea of race, because we are first introduced to our ideas by our parents and they are reinforced by our encounters outside of the home.

I thought it was interesting in this article when it said:

"Relatively few studies have been done on how children of other races, including whites, become aware of racial differences. Those available suggest that skin color is not as salient an issue for white children at the early grade-school stage of development as it is for blacks. It is understandable that young white children do not tend to regard skin color as important, since racial prejudice is generally not a factor in their lives".

So how then is racial prejudice introduced to black children? Is it from their parents? Or could it be from these children who are unconcerned with racial prejudice at an early age? The article quotes, "Racism is not congenital; it has to be learned", when then is the idea of race learned? The author, who is black, converses with a young Australian girl completely oblivious to race. She asks the author about their skin color and lips as if they were carrying a normal conversation, but as it amuses the author, it creates discomfort with the other white adults.

By her parents' discomfort the child would clearly eventually see that there was a difference between her and the author. They make it seem like something is wrong instead of the letting the child discover on her own that there are others out in the world besides herself, but despite physical differences they are the same. They can have something as simple as a conversation and prejudices won't matter as the parents make it seem.

Could it be that because whites are more privileged than other races that are able to look past race than more inferior races? Are their parents trying to mask the fact that there are differences unlike blacks who make their children aware that they are different and that there are obstacles that they have to overcome and stereotypes they have to fight because history and society tells them that they are different?

How were you introduced to race?


  1. The Clark Doll Test was performed in 1939. Both black and white children were given the option to play with either black or white dolls. Almost every child chose a white doll. I think since birth we are led to believe (through the media, happenings in every day life, etc.) that whites are better/more successful/happier than blacks. I think it's slowly changing, but this is just my opinion. The majority of famous actresses and actors are white, and most criminals/poor people portrayed in movies are of different races. There's a study somewhere but I'm too lazy to find it.

    Being multiracial, I've grown up around different races and cultures. I grew up believing that everyone was essentially equal, and I'm really lucky that I was brought up like that. The only prejudice that I distinctly remember is a group of Colombian women (my mother's family is Colombian and I was around many Colombian women in my younger years) talking about how Mexicans were a lesser type of Hispanic. South Americans are rather prejudice against Mexicans.

    Sry for the rant...

  2. I don't know if we're taught that whites are better; the test with the dolls may have to do with individuals being attracted to others like themselves. To Brittany's point, however, I believe that white children aren't as aware of racial differences because they aren't on the receiving end of prejudice, usually. When one is subject to any kind of injustice, one becomes more aware of that issue. Since white kids aren't usually oppressed by their race, they aren't aware of racial oppression.

  3. ^The black children picked the white dolls, too.

  4. The Clark Doll test was fascinating and also incredibly sad to see the results of. It shows how our society (which are parents are the biggest influencing member of) had taught kids, including black children that darker skin was bad. In one debriefing interview, an African American girl was asked why she did not play with the doll who looked like her and she responded with something along the lines of "because that one is bad..." It is clear that we need to change the way our kids think, but this starts from the socialization that begins around age two. Why not just start at birth. The exciting thing for all of us is that we are young and empowered with this knowledge before we would be raising kids. Knowing this now, we can apply it to raising our kids in the future if we choose to have them.


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