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Kids Are Blind to the Notion of a Colorblind Society

Well-intentioned parents who want their kids to grow up in a colorblind world avoid discussing race. But a new study involving white families reveals that when parents keep quiet about skin color, young children will discriminate based on race.

The findings from the Children's Research Lab at the University of Texas are featured in this week's Newsweek. Here's an example of how researchers gauge the children's attitudes about race:

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.

The researchers then asked parents to discuss interracial friendship with their children every night for a week straight. When the kids came back to be questioned again, almost none of the opinions changed. Only six of the children dramatically improved their racial attitudes. What was it about these children? The researchers found that every family, except for these six, avoided talking explicitly about race. Instead, they sent their kids the vague message that "everybody is equal." To find out why parents tended to be so vague,



The study suggested that parents are reluctant to discuss race because they worry that such an education passes on society's tendency to classify people based on the color of their skin. But it seems that even if an adult never mentions race, kids can be prone to favor people who look similar to themselves. Thus, staying silent about skin color might not be the best way to go.

Do you think it's possible to move toward a "colorblind" society, or will we always have to deal with openly with race?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
sloane220 sloane220 7 years
i always say that the melting pot theory, where everyone's racial and cultural experiences eventually disappear if they go unacknowledged is ridiculous, doesn't work, and is insulting to people of color have and still continue to be discriminated against. i go more for the salad bowl theory, where the intergrity of everyone's culture isn't erased but celebrated and multiculturalism, where every culture's narrative is given an equal platform and credence, racial discrimination against people of color is acknowledged and education is used to combat it. basically, people aren't the same, and that's okay, but everyone deserves to be acknowledged as a human being and no culture or skin color supercedes the other.
Ac2366 Ac2366 7 years
Everyone is different. Yes, there are physical differences between different races of people. We need to stop pretending we're the same and start accepting the reality that we are different and it's ok to be different. If everyone was the same the world would be a pretty boring place.
vanilla19 vanilla19 7 years
That's easy to believe. It reminds me of the studies that show how parents that never give their kids candy raise kids who grow up to binge on candy.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 7 years
My follow up question would be, did they discuss culture? IMO most things that are perceived as racial complications are actually cultural complications and skin color really does have nothing to do with it.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
I agree with HoneyBrown. What's wrong with addressing race? Addressing race in a positive way (as opposed to ignoring it) is the best way to develop a good racial attitude among children. Being colorblind is NOT the answer. That's like telling kids to ignore the obvious.
Chrstne Chrstne 7 years
Well, I don't know where I sit on the colorblindness issue. If a skin color is a non-issue, make it a non-issue. Some people think not talking about it is effective, some people say that raising more awareness is effective. Even if you don't hate people of another race, you will still gravitate towards people who are like you, especially as a kid. So in schools, you notice white kids together with white kids, black kids together with black kids, etc. You will see some "mixing", though. So some white people will befriend black people, and vice versa. It is important to not stress race to children, but differences in general. Instead of saying "Greg, Kevin is black, and you are not", it's better to say "Greg, everyone in this world looks different. There are tall kids, short kids, chubby kids, skinny kids, black kids, white kids, asian kids, etc. They may look different than you, have different traditions than you, or act different than you, but you do have a lot in common, and there is nothing wrong with being different. You can be friends with anyone you want." For me, personally, I feel I am colorblind. It's a color of your skin, it's not a level of intelligence, or a factor in character. It just is. Anyone with half a brain knows evolution and how people look different because they lived in different areas. I understand how bad experiences may make a white person or a black person hate each other, or how a racist family will influence you -- but I didn't grow up around that, and never had a negative experience with someone of a different race. Frankly, I wouldn't care if you were orange. You're still a good person no matter what color you are.
genesisrocks genesisrocks 7 years
That's so true about kids identifying with those who look like them. I was always mad the brunette Barbie never got the hot pink costumes blonde Barbie did
Briandiesel Briandiesel 7 years
That's interesting
HoneyBrown1976 HoneyBrown1976 7 years
There's no such thing as colorblindness (unless you are actually optically colorblind). It's a rather ignorant excuse to not talk about racial issues. Who really doesn't notice the differences amongst people?
PinkNC PinkNC 7 years
America has gotten better but we will always have to deal with racism because of ignorance.
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