Children and Racism

After discussing the Devine (1989) article in class, we had a lot to discuss. Unfortunately, in such a short period of time that we have for class, we were unable to talk about all of the implications of this study. This study had three main findings: all individuals are aware of racist stereotypes; individuals, when primed, automatically act on these stereotypes and change their behavior or perception of an individual; and when in a controlled situation, individuals who are low-prejudice will exert the effort to counteract the stereotypes that they are aware of. All in all, this study showed that everyone automatically thinks about stereotypes that exist but, when possible, people use their controlled response to act in a way that does not show their belief in the stereotype. One of the main questions this led us to was, How do individuals learn about these stereotypes? We realized that as early as childhood, individuals know the difference between races and act upon it. Usually, this is learned from a parent, the media, or school settings. Children pick up on cues very easily, and it does not take much for them to learn how others react to people of a different race.

When I got back from class, I was interested in more about children’s perspectives of racial issues. I found that research has shown that babies as young as 6 months old, of both races, will stare at a picture of a White individual longer than they will stare at one of a Black individual. Though this may not sound extreme at the outset, it proves that babies understand racial cues before they develop language.

It is a commonly held belief that children learn interactions from their parents. When children see their parents engage in conversation with people of many different races, they are likely to do the same. When they see their parents clutching their belongings by a Black man or making racist statements, they are likely to adapt that attitude as well. To combat this, many parents will take the colorblind approach and avoid talking about racism all together. These parents believe that if they do not discuss racism, they will teach their children that it does not exist and they see no difference between Blacks and Whites. Unfortunately, this is not the message children get from this action. Acting colorblind teaches children that racism is something that should not be discussed. Children see people’s skin colors the same way adults do. Not addressing it teaches the child that that is the proper way to handle the situation. As we have learned in class, nothing can be farther from the truth. We need to talk about racism if we expect to help the situation at all.

According to an article I read, some programs are put in place for children to combat racism. In this program, there is no such thing as colorblind. After school, students get together with individuals of different races and talk to one another. They get together to do cooperative learning, where small groups of students try to complete a task together. This can be the best way for students to avoid becoming racist. Not only are they able to talk about racism openly with individuals of other races, but they get to work together and see that everyone is truly the same on the inside. If many schools had programs such as this one, we might see a generation of children with view very different from ours.