Are we born racist?

September - posted on 01/11/2011 ( 37 moms have responded )

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I just read a very touching article that I've added below. Do you point out color differences (as in race) in books, movies, dolls etc.? Do you think it's important to do so and if you don't how do you teach your children about race?

http://www.parentmap.com/parentmap-magaz...

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Isobel - posted on 01/12/2011

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There is a theory that we are hardwired to notice differences in order to recognize friend from foe quickly (those who are like us are trusted more easily and those who are not are not).

That being said, I don't know that race is definitively the marker. Being in a big city, I would have a lot more in common with a person who was liberal and black than a person who was a white republican from the country.

For me, the marker of an outsider becomes style of dress, accent, and behaviour.

Does that make any sense?

[deleted account]

I have to disagree...big surprise :P
I have always thought the "color blind" approach was a big mistake. First of all, it is not "racist" to notice skin color and cultural differences, it is "racist" to notice only skin color and make assumptions of superiority/inferiority based on that alone.

My family lives in a rather diverse neighborhood, I am the only Native American, 2 of my best friends are white, 2 are black, one is Indian. I know that intellectually we are all EQUAL, but we are definitely NOT the same. We are all different and proud of those differences.

When I introduce my son to my friends, we (my friends and I) love to compare and contrast our cultures--in effect, we are pointing out our differences directly, and teaching my son that we are all Equal, but not identical.

Differences are not something to be ashamed of or feared, they are something to be proud of.

[deleted account]

i am as white as you get..., but i have african and native in my family, i never noticed a difference growing up. Your not born a jerk, its bred into you.

Rosie - posted on 01/11/2011

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i think the article is not accurate, IMO. i don't see how pointing out someones color does anything but bring attention to the fact that they are different somehow. we don't go around pointing out white peoples skin do we? i just don't get how they think it's beneficial at all.

i teach my children everybody is different, because everybody is. white people are different from each other, black people are different from each other. EVERYONE is different for reasons other than the color of their skin.

Charlie - posted on 01/11/2011

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No I can't say I have ever probably because I come from a mixed family , Mum is black , Dad is white my sister and I are somewhere in between , it never occurs to me we are different .

I think because of my upbringing I have never seen people "in colour" if you know what I mean .

Do I think it is important ? no not really , people are people , we are all different in many more ways than just skin .

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Emily - posted on 03/18/2011

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I can't agree with the article. I cannot see how it would help to point out racial differences at every turn. I, too, am one of those mothers who don't mention race to their kids. I don't care what color anyone is, so I don't see the point in making it appear to my children that I do. Do I notice that they are different? Of course I do, and so do my children. But if I don't care what color they are, why would I bother to point it out? I point out behavior, because I do care about that.



As it stands, my boys (ages 7 and 9) have no idea what a "black person" or a "white person" is. They describe people by their clothing color. They aren't afraid to mention skin color. Once, one of them commented about the darker skin color of the people in a restaurant... but then they reasoned that their ancestors must have come from a very sunny environment which caused them to have more pigment in their skin. That was the end of their interest in the difference in skin color.



They make an effort to be friends with everyone - and approach complete strangers of all races with complete affability. Some of their favorite people are of a completely different race than we are. They couldn't care less. Why should I try to change that?



I think racism is learned, not innate. At this point, my kids aren't racist. I believe this is because I'm not. You don't need to teach kids to "not be racist". Just don't be racist yourself.



Edited to add: Consider this. Overweight people are often discriminated against... vilified even. If the article is right, that pointing out the differences will help people treat others better... should we then point out overweight people in our children's books and movies, and in our everyday lives? Would that help them to treat overweight people better? Or, is that the problem in the first place; people mentioning weight at every turn, until the children see weight as a bad thing, and overweight people as something inferior?

Candi - posted on 01/23/2011

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No I dont think we are born racist, I think its how you are brought up or your surroundings. I believe everyone should be treated equal no matter the color of our skin, nationality, or orgin. The color or our skin, nationality, or orgin doesnt make up the person we are our personalities are what makes us us. I hate when I see or hear people being racist.

[deleted account]

Well I certainly don't think we're born racist. My family's full of racist jerks and I've never agreed with them. Probably because the only friends I ever made when I started kindergarten were the little "outsider" kids, the kids who looked like there was something wrong physically with them, like perhaps they didn't get enough nutrition or their parents didn't care for them. Sadly enough, I've never seen those kids after second grade :( I hope they're okay, but one had sickle-cell anemia and the other looked like he was physically abused...so who knows. I've searched for the second, because I remember his name, but nothing comes up...

I don't think it should be pointed out. I think if a kid is worried about it then they can ask and be told, but really? Kids don't care, it's the parents who care, it's the parents who teach them to be racist or not. Kids are kids and play with anyone, no matter what they look like. It's only until they get a certain age when society steps in. That's what I think, anyway.

Lucy - posted on 01/13/2011

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To add to my previous post, I think this is one of those topics you can over analyse, and see it too much from the point of view of adults with a knowledge of historical context. Kids don't see skin colour as a more significant difference than any other, but of course, as they grow up and the topic is naturally raised and discussed, they learn about historical and cultural sensitivities which go with it.

Although I said I don't make a point of high lighting racial differences like skin tone to my kids, it doesn't mean it never comes up or is a taboo subject that they would be afraid to raise. My daughter, the same child who decided she and one of her black friends were the same because they both have curly hair, although she herself is a white blue eyed blonde, also said to one of her pre-school teachers "You have lovely dark brown skin". This compliment naturally led to a lovely open discussion about specifically racial differences.

Of course it is something we all should and will discuss with our kids, but in my opinion the best way to do it is by celebrating all differences AND things we as humans have in common as the conversations naturally arise. There is no need to make it a big issue by pointing it out all the time. Things only become a big deal to kids if you make it that way.

[deleted account]

I agree with you, Kelly! Color is just another way to point someone out. It doesn't make you racist!

[deleted account]

" if I'm trying to point out a black man to Steve, and I've gone through all of my other descriptive methods, (including almost pointing lol), and if he STILL doesn't see who I'm talking about, then yeah, I'll say "The black dude standing next to the lady with the red baseball cap." --Joy



This is kind of my point. Why do you feel the need to point out every other descriptive you can think of before resorting to skin color. That is not subcontious(I know I spelled that wrong), that is deliberate.

Pointing out his skin color should be no different than pointing out his eye or hair color, but for whatever reason, you avoid talking about his skin color. Why? It is quite obvious that you would notice his skin color before you would see his eye color or the color of his tie. By trying to pretend that there is no difference in skin color, when clearly there is, we have inadvertently attached a negative stigma to anyone of a different skin color from ourselves. Trying to ignore different skin colors is as silly as trying to ignore different shirt colors.....skin color Does Not Matter in terms of intellect or equality, but it is a descriptive, a trait, and a difference, it should not be ignored or treated as a taboo descriptive.



Aside from that, many people attach a great deal of pride to their skin color, and by ignoring that they are a different color, we are in fact insulting them by trying not to offend them. When we ignore there skin tone it implies that they are inferior to people of our own skin tone.

I have a girlfriend who goes around all the time saying "I am a proud black woman." because she is not oblivious to the fact that people avoid calling attention to her skin. By pretending not to notice she is black, they just look stupid or they look pretentious and condescending. She knows what color she is. She knows they know what color she is. To not NOTICE that she is black and to not CARE that she is black are two completely different things, and I think that we have them confused.

[deleted account]

My son noticed differences very early on he is very dark and I'm fair-skinned the most I really do is make sure he is around a variety of different people. He shows no prefference to anyone of a particular race though, he is infatuated with my friend's daughter's hair(who is black) she wears brightly bobbled braids and such so of course he just loves her hair, hes the same with a girl at his daycare who has bouncy blonde curls. When it comes to my neice who is Mohawk like him he has a strange fascination with her eye shape and I've seen him make the connection with his own in the mirror. I don't think it is always neccessary to point out differences but in our family where there are obvious differences I try to celebrate the them when he doesn't point them out. It's a bit of a habit when he holds his arm up to mine I always say "yeah mommy needs a tan" lol. With the new baby on the way I sometimes worry that he might feel out of place. Though I look like the native parent he will be substantially darker than us and the new baby so I hope I can teach them both to love eachother for their differences and not allow it to divide them. Children have an amazing ability to notice and accept differences simultaneously whereas adults tend to have to make a deliberate choice to accept differences when they notice them, I'm sure it will work out just fine.

[deleted account]

I know it's supposed to be scientific, having "research" and all, but I don't agree with this statement from the article: "In fact, a growing body of research suggests that human beings are born to discriminate; born to notice differences between people and then categorize them accordingly." Maybe I'm picking what I want to agree with and discarding the rest, but I feel like yes, we are born to notice differences and take NOTE of them, but I in no way believe we are born to discriminate. Never once have I ever said to Jacob, "Look at the black man standing over there." I'll try to get him to see a person by their hair color, "the guy with the blue hat", "the lady in the green shirt", "the man with the red hair", etc. But never once have I ever pointed out skin color to him. Honestly, it's not something I ever gave any thought to until now. It's not something I do in MY everyday life, define people by their skin color. I mean, if I'm trying to point out a black man to Steve, and I've gone through all of my other descriptive methods, (including almost pointing lol), and if he STILL doesn't see who I'm talking about, then yeah, I'll say "The black dude standing next to the lady with the red baseball cap." or whatever. I had a whole lot more I was gonna say on this but I'm exhausted and my brain literally just went "poof". I'm off to bed girls. I might post the rest of my thoughts on this topic tomorrow...if I can remember them lol

[deleted account]

Okay, but if you had 10 men in a line, 9 white, and 1 black, and all wearing different colored shirts, would you find it somehow inappropriate to identify the black man by his skin color rather than the color of his shirt?

In that situation, it would be the most obvious difference, but, in my culture anyway, people would hesitate to use his skin color as an identifying trait.

Charlie - posted on 01/12/2011

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There's no problem with description by colour but there isn't any point in specifically pointing it out if there is no need , children will ask questions in innocence and that is all cool , I don't feel kids are scared to mention skin , I know the children at my old school never hesitated to ask why I was darker and were quite happy with a simple explanation .

It's not avoiding the topic it's just not making a huge deal over it when there is no need , if they ask then discuss , simple.

Isobel - posted on 01/12/2011

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I agree...I don't see any difference in describing somebody by their hair colour, their eye colour or the colour of their skin...they are all basic identifying characteristics. That part frustrates me.

[deleted account]

I do have to pose this question....When children refer to someone of a different skin tone by some other feature, especially a temporary or less noticeable feature, is it really that they do not notice the skin tone, or are they just afraid to mention it.

I think that by avoiding talk about different kinds of people we are telling our children that it is "not something to be spoken of" or that skin color is something to be ashamed of noticing. Why are we not teaching our children that people are different in many ways, including race, religion, culture, and sex, but that, though they are DIFFERENT, they are all EQUAL?


Think about it this way: If we have a line of of 9 men and a woman, we have no qualms with identifying the woman by saying "Lee is the woman." But, similarly, if we have a lineup of 9 white people and 1 black person, we tend to look for some other feature, even if it is a less noticeable feature than skin tone, just to avoid saying "Lee is the black man" By avoiding talk about different races, we are inadvertently attaching a stigma to them.

Our children are going to notice that people have different skin tones. It is impossible not to, it is the same as noticing that people are wearing different colored shirts. The problem is not that people see the skin tones, it is that they attach a preconceived notion of the person to the skin color. By pointing out the fact that people of different races have different skin tones (in some cases) we can show them that it is okay, and actually very good, to be different. We don't have to be just like everyone else.

[deleted account]

Great story from when one of my kids was young - at a parent -teacher evening, daughter points out her teacher - "that's Miss Lee in the red top, " not "Miss Lee is the Asian one!"

Jodi - posted on 01/12/2011

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I'm of the same line of thought as Kelly, I don't point out the differences in books or movies (unless that book is ABOUT differences or about a different culture or something) but when my daughter meets someone new and seems very shy I might point out differences between the girls (or the boy) such as "Look, she has pretty blonde hair and you have pretty brown hair." or something then follow it with something that they both enjoy like, "I hear Sarah likes to look for bugs too!" Or when we see someone wearing something culturally different or doing something religiously or culturally different from what we do, I'll point it out, explain it as best I can in terms she can understand and how that's what makes the world a wonderful and varied place to live.

There are differences between people (right now my daughter is VERY into hair color differences) be it physical, religious, cultural or lifestyle choices and I don't think it's appropriate to NOT educate my daughter about these things when we encounter them, but I don't feel the need to point out every single difference every time we meet someone who does, wears or looks different from us either. I teach tolerance and acceptance by showing tolerance and acceptance.

Nikkole - posted on 01/12/2011

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I think we are taught to be racist, some of my neighbors and family members are very racist where i live i think we have 1 black family living in my town,i think that is horrible i wish we would have more diversity in our community! I feel racist people are ignorant and are a product of there environment and we need to teach them to be open minded and not racist! My son is 3 so he hasn't noticed color or differences yet but when he does i will answer his questions to the best of my abillity

September - posted on 01/12/2011

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I don’t think that it’s necessary to point out differences at every given chance however I do feel it’s important for all children to be aware of differences and to embrace them, as well as being knowledgeable when it comes to history.

[deleted account]

Roxanne is still too young but I don't plan to draw any special attention towards color. I will answer any questions she has open and honestly. Racists are bred, not born!

Tara - posted on 01/12/2011

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We don't point out differences, they learn about them by living.
People are all the same, just different in appearance. Some people have blonde hair, some brown, some people have light skin, some dark etc... no biggie

Isobel - posted on 01/12/2011

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ummm...we have a lady who rides the subway with us fairly often who is veiled from head to toe. I did feel the need to explain that to my children.

I told them (to the best of my ability) why some women do that and that they are the same underneath as us, just a different religion...and for them to never ever make fun of somebody for being different like that.

When I was in Europe I saw a North American teenager (who might have been Canadian...I suppose) go off on a middle eastern woman calling her a terrorist and laughing that everybody should run because she was probably hiding a bomb...I was honestly humiliated on behalf of my entire culture.

Tracey - posted on 01/12/2011

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Surely pointing out skin colours in a book or on T V makes a child feel it id a big difference? I have never felt the need to point out anyone's colour, religion etc.

Lucy - posted on 01/12/2011

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I think it would be pretty weird to point out peoples differences to your kids all the time. Nobody would think to say to their child "hey, look at that woman with blond hair over there, it's different to yours" or "Have you noticed that person has freckles and you don't", so I don't see why a parent would approach racial differences this way.

Children really don't see these differences or hold an opinion on them (positive or negative) unless we instil it in them. A great example of this is my daughter who, at the age of 3, proclaimed that she and her friend Cody were just the same because they both have curly hair. The fact that she is white with almost white blond hair and he is black with afro hair didn't figure into it for her. She saw the similarity, not the difference.

Personally, I think it more important to teach your children that you should treat everybody with respect, regardless of their size, race, religion or whatever.

Dawn - posted on 01/11/2011

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Granted, my daughters are still very young, but I don't point out differences to them. If and when they have questions about people of different colors and religions, from different countries, I will answer them. I think the best way to teach your children how to treat other people, of any color is by example. I treat all people with whom I come in contact with respect and kindness, and will teach my daughters to do the same.

September - posted on 01/11/2011

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Yes Ebony we are both from Seattle and it is indeed a melting pot....a beautiful one! :)



I hope I spelled that right Ebony.

September - posted on 01/11/2011

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Although this article is very meaningful and important to read, it doesn't directly call out on the complexities of the social constructs and systems that continue to perpetuate disparities for children of color. Not only do we plan on being sure to point out and embrace differences with our son, we are committed to exploring our own white privilege and how we can impact equal access to opportunites for ALL children. We'll encourage our son to play an important role, understanding his own white privilege, to help break down the barriers that face children of color.

Joanna - posted on 01/11/2011

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My 3 year old has commented on how pretty different races are... She says "she has a pretty body!" and that's it. I just keep it simple and say "everybody's body is beautiful " and "we are all different but all pretty and important", etc.

♏*PHOENIX*♏ - posted on 01/11/2011

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Thats right September you are in the same state as me...so you know what a melting pot this place is :-0)

♏*PHOENIX*♏ - posted on 01/11/2011

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We live in a melting pot…literately, and our family is nicely mixed with White, Asian, Black, Hawaiian, Samoan, Cambodian, Aunts and Uncles and so I have no need.

If we didn’t live in such a Melting pot, then I would wait until he asked me.

When we are young and sometimes older, we are a huge reflection of the people who raise us…and so I don’t think you are born racist, but taught.

[deleted account]

I like this sentence from the article..."We’ve flipped our notion from ‘Let’s act like there are no differences’ to ‘Let’s call out differences and learn to appreciate the beauty of them.’”"

No, I don't think I need to point out racial differences in books or movies to my 2 year old. But I'm not going to pretend they aren't there. One day she WILL notice a difference, not because she's born racist, but because some differences are obvious. We are all different, and it is beautiful. The solution to racism is not to sweep our differences under the rug.

JuLeah - posted on 01/11/2011

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"You have to be taught to hate and fear ..." Love that song.
I have worked for years in pre-schools. Kids have to be taught about differences and have to be taught to dislike them. If they are not, then they never develope racists ideas.
I remember teaching a unit on Martin Luther King Jr. The kids were not able to understand why anyone ever had to sit at the back of the bus, so the story never really made sense to them.
I think it is important to teach that we don't exclude, the welcome the new kid, we share and play with everyone. Anti bulling skills are very important and complete history lessons in school and are not just about old white guys. I would like to see history taught, and skip 'black history month' or 'women in history' month ..... I think the fact that we have 'black history month' teaches kids to be racists. I think the fact that we think race is so important we ask about it on every form teaches kids to see color. I think the fact that we have Barbie and Black Barbie teaches kids to be racists. Why can't we have Barbie?
Look at college sports. I was in Oregon State, so we had the Oregon Ducks Basketball, for example and we also had the 'Lady Ducks' WTF is that about?
With my friends I'd say, "you gonna watch the ducks play tonight?" and hear, "No the women play tomorrow"
No .... the womens team is the Oregon Ducks team, somehow they are not 'real ducks'?
Maybe I am rambling now, but I think language like that is very important.
Each time we make a point of pointing out race and gender, we teach and if we didn;t teach, I don't believe our kids would ever learn. What a happy world that would be

Jenn - posted on 01/11/2011

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No, I don't think we are born racist. I don't know if I've taught anything about race, but if books sometimes my son will notice someone who has darker skin, or red hair, or freckles, etc. And we talk about how everyone is different and that no 2 people are the same, and that's what makes us all special.

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