A Post-Racial Society? Your Toddler Would Beg to Differ

Kids learn racial difference early, and parents aren't helping
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2009 1:30 PM CDT
Modern notions about how to teach children about racial difference are doing more harm than help, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman argue.   (Shutter Stock)
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(Newser) – Parents, if you think you’re raising color-blind children by avoiding open discussions on race, you’re wrong and could actually be doing the opposite, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman write in a lengthy Newsweek article exposing how babies really learn about racial difference. Many white parents shy away from race discussions, fearing that it will train toddlers to notice skin color. But researchers say a parent’s silence on race combined with a child’s natural inclination toward in-group favoritism could reinforce segregation.

Bereft of any formal teaching on race, children learn that it shouldn't be discussed and form their own conclusions, often leading to an “us-versus-them” attitude. One study found white children as young as 5 prone to racial discrimination and convinced their supposedly liberal parents dislike blacks. Another found the more diverse the school, the more kids self-segregated. To turn the tide, the authors advise parents to have open discussions with their children from an early age. “Explicitness works,” they write.