OPINION: Parents should teach their children about race

Important for children to embrace racial differences in people around them instead of avoiding the subject; racial bias can begin as early as six to nine months



Children should learn to embrace other cultures


People have become more conscious about concepts like race, gender identity, sexuality and ultimately their own personal biases that revolve around these deeper notions.

Younger generations are striving to become more culturally competent to eventually teach the next generation similar values.

While some decide to keep their values traditional, others decide to stray away, especially when the old way of thinking is perceived as harmful to other communities.

The individuals who choose to drift from that tradition are left to decide how they should educate their children, most notably when questions shift from the topic of inanimate objects to questions about racial differences.

It is often perceived that children are born without bias and grow up to see all individuals the same. However, a study conducted by the University of Toronto found that racial bias may typically begin within six to nine months of age, rooted from the lack of exposure to other races.

Other studies like the famous “Clark Doll Experiment” unveil how implications involving racial bias are exhibited in children.

To test the psychological effects of segregation on African American children, psychologists Mamie and Kenneth Clark conducted a series of experiments using nearly identical dolls, with the single difference being color.

Children were asked to choose their preferred doll, and the white colored doll was not only the most popular, but more positive characteristics were attributed to that doll in comparison.
The analysis of the results found prejudice and segregation ultimately contributed toward the feeling of inferiority among African American children.

The experiment was replicated several times throughout decades, and the results repeated themselves just as often as history did. Despite the end of slavery, Jim Crow Laws and other significant events, the impact is continually endured through generations of African Americans.

Social experiments like these have often provided evidence toward the theory of children being a product of their environment. Even if racism is not taught at home, differential treatment in any social setting would continue to occur if children are not taught to address racial differences with empathy.

As children grow, their relationships expand beyond the household as they become exposed to greater diversity. They often form friendships with children that are different from them, and ideally, they are equipped with the knowledge necessary to be conscious and accepting of these differences.

It takes time to learn how to answer questions about race, but they are worth approaching and re-visiting. Children often learn through picking up on patterns, whether that be behaviors, language or social interactions so no matter how they are taught, they will eventually understand.

Encouraging conversation about racial differences, leading by example, and teaching children about the experiences of different ethnic groups would foster cultural competence and civility in the coming generations.