Children’s Evolving Understanding of Race

Around 7-9 years of age, children focus on more than the differences between groups. They also zero in on social value or judgments about those differences. Research demonstrates that children value or show preferences for Whites over other racial groups. You saw an example of this in the doll study clip. In another experiment, a researcher presents a child with two boxes. One box has a picture of a White child on it and the other box has a picture of a Black child. Then the researcher asks the child: “Which child – the White or Black child – is “kind”? Most children, regardless of their own race, will pick the White child as “kind.” Researchers ask about a range of positive and negative traits, such as: pretty, smart, dumb, mean, or ugly. The results are consistent. Children are more likely to choose the White child for “good” traits and the Black child for “bad” ones. These studies suggest that children are aware of how race operates in society. And they begin to evaluate themselves and others using this information.

  • Bias
    the belief that some people or ideas are better than others, usually resulting in unfair treatment
    Biological race
    physical racial features such as skin color, hair textures, and facial features
    Explicit racism/bias
    racism that is plainly expressed through words and or actions
    Implicit racism/bias
    racism that hides in our unconscious biases and gets expressed in our actions
    the beliefs and practices that uphold and reinforce inequalities based on race
    Social identity
    a person’s sense of self that is based on group membership
    Social race
    The social norms, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that accompany racial groups
    Systemic racism
    policies, practices, and laws that reinforce social inequalities by discriminating against groups of people, either directly or indirectly, and limiting their rights