Should parents call attention to race with their children?
"Remember, everybody's equal." This is what one woman kept telling her 5-year-old son. She thought she was getting the message across until the day -after seven months of her repetitive phrase - the boy asked, "Mommy, what's 'equal' mean?"
This really cracked me up. Many parents just can’t talk about race with their children. They prefer to raise them in a race-free vacuum; always reverting to the very vague ‘Everybody is equal’ phrase. In one study that required parents to discuss race with their children, most parents (especially Caucasian parents) "...admitted they just didn't know what to say to their kids, and they don't want the wrong thing coming out of the mouth of their kids."
They say children as young as 6 months judge others based on skin color. In a study carried out to determine when children develop racial bias, children at 6 months stared significantly longer at pictures of faces whose races were different from their parents'. And even when parents dont point these things out, children as early as 3 years form in-group favoritisms, believing that those who look similar to them are either nicer or smarter or better than those who look the least similar to them.
When children interract in school, they see these things. They even have the ability to pick up on their parents' attitudes towards people of other races. In 2006, Birgitte Vittrup recruitred about a hundred Caucasian families with a child 5 to 7 years old from the database of the Children's Research Lab at the University of Texas. She asked the kids: "Do your parents like black people?" 14% outrightly said "No". 38% said they didn't know. Clearly, if you don't talk about it, they will draw their own conclusions.
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So after raising a child in a supposed race-free vacuum, what is a parent to do when the child makes some improper racial remark like "You can't play basketball: you're white. Baseball is the right sport for you.”?The instinctive reflex is usually to shush the child.
Question is: is it the right move? Should parents let the environment be the message or should they openly call attention to race?
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