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Why Babies Notice Skin Color (how discrim. begins)


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  • Why Babies Notice Skin Color (how discrim. begins)

    even tee shirt colors can cause tots to seek "their own kind":

    See Baby Discriminate

    Kids as young as 6 months judge others based on skin color. What's a parent to do?

    By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman | NEWSWEEK
    Published Sep 5, 2009
    From the magazine issue dated Sep 14, 2009

    ....t was no surprise that in a liberal city like Austin, every parent was a welcoming multiculturalist, embracing diversity. But according to Vittrup's entry surveys, hardly any of these white parents had ever talked to their children directly about race. They might have asserted vague principles—like "Everybody's equal" or "God made all of us" or "Under the skin, we're all the same"—but they'd almost never called attention to racial differences.

    They wanted their children to grow up colorblind. But 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...More disturbing, Vittrup also asked all the kids a very blunt question: "Do your parents like black people?" Fourteen percent said outright, "No, my parents don't like black people"; 38 percent of the kids answered, "I don't know." In this supposed race-free vacuum being created by parents, kids were left to improvise their own conclusions—many of which would be abhorrent to their parents.

    ...How do researchers test a 6-month-old? They show babies photographs of faces. Katz found that babies will stare significantly longer at photographs of faces that are a different race from their parents, indicating they find the face out of the ordinary. Race itself has no ethnic meaning per se—but children's brains are noticing skin-color differences and trying to understand their meaning.

    When the kids turned 3, Katz showed them photographs of other children and asked them to choose whom they'd like to have as friends. Of the white children, 86 percent picked children of their own race. When the kids were 5 and 6, Katz gave these children a small deck of cards, with drawings of people on them. Katz told the children to sort the cards into two piles any way they wanted. Only 16 percent of the kids used gender to split the piles. But 68 percent of the kids used race to split the cards, without any prompting. In reporting her findings, Katz concluded: "I think it is fair to say that at no point in the study did the childr
    en exhibit the Rousseau type of color-blindness that many adults expect."

  • #2
    Vittrup's (?) survey: pretty weak.

    Kids as young as 6 months judge others based on skin color. What's a parent to do?
    How about be happy that your kid's cognitive abilities are functioning.

    Do your parents like black people?
    The answer, would have been similar for any number of groups or subgroups.

    I think it is fair to say that at no point in the study did the children exhibit the Rousseau type of color-blindness that many adults expect."
    I don't expect color-blindness and I wouldn't even teach it. I would demand that they treat everyone with respect different or not.


    • #3
      I wouldn't expect kids to be color blind. The fact of the matter is that if you're a Black kid, most of the relatives, friends and neighbors that you come into contact with during your pre-school years will be Black, and the same is true with White kids. It's human nature to be curious whenever you see something different. I had a friend who in the mid-70's visited North Dakota as part of a high school 4-H trip, and he said that when he arrived at the airport, little kids were staring at him, and some of them approached him and asked how his skin got like that. Furthermore, I would have expected White kids from areas near the Mediterranean to react the same way the first time they saw someone of Scandanavian descent, though that might not be the case today since so many women fake their hair color and some even fake their eye color.

      I don't think our goal is to have a colorblind society. It should be a society where we are no longer color conscious, and where we view skin color is just another physical characteristic like height, weight, hair color and eye color. What I've noticed is that kids today aren't nearly as color-conscious as folks of my generation who will probably always be color-conscious to some degree. For example, it would never occur to kids today to ask if Lolo Jones is Black or White, but that question is always asked of me by anyone over the age of 40 when they see Jones for the first time.

      On the flip side, I'm sure that folks who are in the law enforcement business are hoping that we don't ever become a color blind society since it would sure make their jobs a lot harder.