Friday, November 6, 2009

Baby Discriminates?

When you have a good twenty minutes, check out Newsweek's article See Baby Discriminate. I was skeptical of the initial claims---but the research and examples provided by the authors opened my eyes.

Particularly, I was interested a few ideas. The first, is that language of happy-happy-racial harmony isn't working:

"It 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. "

I don't want my child to be colorblind---because to me that is disrespectful of her racial makeup which should be, in my opinion, celebrated and embraced. But where to draw the line between everything being about race and nothing being about race...

Next, the fact that ...

"Children naturally try to categorize everything, and the attribute they rely on is that which is the most clearly visible."

(As concluded from experiments discussed in the article---a must read!)

So again, trying to promote diversity, which many parents do, ironically, by promoting color blindness, will naturally not work because of each child's tendency and natural ability to categorize in many ways, including physical color (not recognized as race for a few years).

Brings me to my friend C's son, K, who upon first meeting my daughter when he was two and half years old, said, "Why her brown?"

His mom replied, "That's how Jesus made her."

He liked this answer, accepted it, and continued playing.

What most surprised me...

"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."

This confirms why my daughter stares intently as my friend A, who is Guatemalan-American. My friend always said, "She wonders why I look like her." I never thought much of it. But come to find out, maybe A has some good points! My daughter recognizes that A looks different (brown skin) from her white mom and dad. Hmmmmm....

I just love the controversies, the questions, and the information that this article brings to light. I encourage everyone to read it!


  1. I haven't had a chance to read the article...but will. Just something we've an fyi....

    Whenever we've seen something in the newspaper or on the news or in person that's related to a racial issue (and age appropriate...because our son is 8 after all), we've shown our son the article or newsclip or whatever and asked him for his opinion and shared our opinions with him...basically we discuss issues of race as a family...and, to clarify, because we think it's important for our son to learn and think about these issues, we're not always waiting for a news story to do this. Just as an example, as I'm sure you probably heard or saw in the recent news, Washington University seniors took a trip up to Chicago. While in Chicago, the seniors had pre-planned a trip to a popular night club...and then the issue of attire came up...but, "interestingly," only the black studens attire seemed to be questioned (and the students barred) even though there were white students in the group wearing the same attire. So, we talked to our son about this...and it made for an interesting discussion. I think it's important that you make the time to discuss issues of race with your matter what their racial ethnicity is.

  2. Thanks for mentioning the article. Really fascinating, all kinds of stuff to consider.

    I was really intrigued by the idea that talking about race is a simple but really significant process that can provide some useful results.


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