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How Does Your Child Perceive Race? How Do You Want Her To?

By HERWriter Guide
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CNN is running a study to understand how children perceive race, and why.

Researchers showed pictures of animated children to over 130 participants from the East Coast and the South.

When asked which of the animated girls was “ugly” or “mean”, one 5 year old white child pointed to dark skinned cartoons. When asked which girl was “smart” she pointed to the white one. Her Mom shed tears as she watched.

But it’s not just white children with a bias toward lighter skinned people. Dark skinned children in the study also showed bias toward their lighter counterparts. Their bias was not as strong as the white kids but was noticeable nonetheless.

Researchers believe that the problem may be starting at home, particularly with white families. And not because of racist parents, but because the topic is simply not spoken of in many white families – at least not nearly as often as the topic of race is raised in black families. This makes sense on some levels, of course. Black families suffer more prejudice than whites so it’s an unfortunate fact that dark skinned parents may have to bring the topic up to their children so that they know in advance of possible future experiences of bias. Approximately 75% of darker skinned parents address race with their children. The same percentage of white parents do not discuss the topic at home.

Many light skinned parents have only good intentions. They don’t want to bring race up at all because they want their own children to be color-blind. To see only people, and never their color. The problem with this is that they don’t prepare their children for the reality that racism does exist. The ugly truth needs to be addressed, say experts. Many parents disagree and say they will have these discussions for several reasons, including fears of planting seeds of bias by merely doing so.

When my son was three, he openly referred to a boy in a waiting room as a “brown boy”. His mom ignored it and I sat cringing in my chair.

Add a Comment16 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I live in Toronto, great city. Whites are the minority here, if this study was conducted here, the results would be the opposite.

July 4, 2010 - 7:06am
EmpowHER Guest

I am so frustrated that you cringed when a small child referred to another child as the brown boy. I think that is beautiful. The red haired girl. The tall man. The Asian boy. The white lady. Why does that have to be racist? I think its unfortunate to be too uncomfortable to even say the word black in front of a black person. Racism is about intent. Children are beautiful and honest. My young daughter mentioned a kid she really liked and been hanging out with at school. I asked which one she was when we were at her school. She said "the brown girl". It was a descriptor. She didn't feel the need to say, the third girl from the left with the blue coat next to the swings. I thought her freedom to talk about color without guilt or judgment was honest and real. In this context it was the most logical way to differentiate visually a person in a group. Intent. Racism is about thinking your race is superior. Its a sick belief. Hitler.
When someone points out that something you say "might be offensive" I think you have a responsibility to look at it and make a change if there could be sensitivity....but lets not go too far. Many blacks don't want to be called African American. Its almost taboo to even say black anymore which is stupid. If someone is clearly being a jerk call them out. Otherwise I think we should all lighten up a bit. Real racist people don't feel guilt about what they do. People who try really hard not to be perceived racist do feel that guilt.... and I think it leads to more problems when political correctness takes over and clouds the truth. They try so hard that it gets into changing the names of colors so as not to offend even one person anywhere anytime. Good luck. That will never happen, ironically because people who share the same race DO NOT all think the same way, DO NOT all believe the same things and have a unified outlook on everything. (There really are no secret meetings....really!) Diversity is deeper than color.

July 3, 2010 - 10:08am
EmpowHER Guest

white people are inherently racist. It's not their fault. I feel bad for them.

June 30, 2010 - 8:49am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I think this is the most ignorant statement so far. To say that an entire group of people are inherently racist is, in fact, a racist statement. For too long now it has been open season on white people because of things in the past. We are constantly reminded of the slave trade, the civil rights movement, Nazi Germany, South Africa, and the list goes on. It might be a good time for all the talking heads out there to start doing some research and expose this lie. I've lived in Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Tokyo, and parts of the Middle East and I can say without a doubt that Americans, regardless of color, are far from racist. In all of those major cities the majority of the racism came from the predominant race. In L.A. and San Diego hispanics and blacks were far more racist than anyone else. In Tokyo, it's incredibly hard to even get service in some districts if you are not Japanese, and the middle east is the worst of the lot. Ignorance begets ignorance so if you feel sorry for anyone, feel sorry for yourself and your children because they will grow up with the same twisted view you have unless you attempt to change your errant beliefs.

July 6, 2010 - 7:47am
EmpowHER Guest

I know that there will never be an end to racism, but I think there is more to the story as this may not only be a racist remark rather then what a child deems as 'beautiful' or 'attractive'. I actually have many very close friends that are many different races: African American, Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, Indian, Philippino, Asian, Irish, Polish. German, etc. Each nationality has a different opinion about what is beautiful or good looking in each category!

For example, my best friend happens to be a dark skinned black woman and was always teased growing up as being 'midnight black' from her own race. She always felt less than beautiful as she was not 'light-skinned' as her Mother. Her Mother being 'light skinned' was perceived as pretty. Now on the other side, she also had an Aunt that was “fair skinned” almost white and she was teased for being not black enough for her own race and was sought as unattractive.

These sorts of things go on in each race, nationality and it would be hard to differentiate between a racist remark and what someone deems as attractive as a child. Yes, these things are certainly learned behaviors as my best friend although 'dark skinned' is a very attractive woman.

I don't know if I could follow the CNN story about this one since I have seen so many different things in each nationality that I would beg to differ on a child's racist opinion.

June 6, 2010 - 8:26am
EmpowHER Guest

This article is loaded with contradictions and assumptions. First, the writer talks about how a bias exists between members of one's own race; stating that both blacks and whites tend to view their own races as superior. Then, the writer equates the reasoning of this as being due to the fact that race "was not discussed" or was kept quiet. But if you go over to page 2 you'll see that the writer now claims that people can't be racist by nature and society is responsible for it.

"before they are indoctrinated by us, by society, by the media and by each other, to think differently"

So which one is it?

Are they racist by nature and race was not discussed or are they non-racist by nature and nurture made them racist?

I will take the stance of the former. This is in agreement with our understanding of evolution and interactions between species. That is, people (like most forms of life) are evolutionarily programmed to associate AND trust other people or species that are more "like them". People have little regard when enslaving, breeding and killing pigs simply because pigs are branched far from us in the evolutionary tree. We cannot associate as well with pigs as we can with say, chimpanzees. I am not insinuating that different homo sapien races equate to different species, since clearly they do not. However, I believe the subtle differences between humans are enough to provide a strong argument in support of natural racism.

I disagree with the current media propagated line that racism is purely nurture based. There is strong evidence to suggest that racism actually "comes naturally", if you will.

How does one counter natural racism?
Socialization and higher level education. The only way for an individual to become better acclimated to a multi-racial environment is for them to socialize with members of different races. Once the socialization occurs they will realize that the differences are more trivial than they realized. Higher level education (specifically science based) will allow the individual to research more into fields of biology and DNA. This self education through the scientific method will allow the individual to confirm or deny their own racist perceptions.

I disagree with the writer’s method that you should brainwash your children at early ages about races. You need to provide them with the scientific understanding the social paradigm to confront their own perceptions. After all, confronting your own perceptions is how you grow as an individual, is it not?

June 6, 2010 - 1:57am
EmpowHER Guest

"They don’t know that darker skinned people (and women) are..."

are women not the same as people anymore?
just sayin.

June 5, 2010 - 6:12pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

i reread and retract my statement. definitely read the sentence incorrectly. my bad!

June 5, 2010 - 6:13pm
EmpowHER Guest


June 4, 2010 - 5:40pm
EmpowHER Guest

Or maybe this goes to show that we, on a more primitive level, prefer people of like color and that integration is another man-made social experience we are forced to adapt to. It's obvious that no one race is better than another, yet it's also obvious they all races are different. Throw in the broad spectrum of culture that comes with each race and you have a situation a child is not easily able to adapt to because they have yet to develop the social skills necessary. Maybe if we quit with the race thing and just allowed people to be who they are - whether "racist" or not - things would work themselves out. If mankind keeps attempting to force its Utopian ideals on the world there will continue to be problems.

May 27, 2010 - 7:22am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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