Are parents teaching kids racism subliminally?

As I was searching for something to write about, I came across an extremely important topic in an article called “Children’s Perceptions of Race & Friendship” on the sociological images blog site. Attached to the article is a CNN study video on how kids perceive race and friendship at an age as young as six. The study is raw but very insightful on how kids are growing up in the 21st century.

As you being to watch the video, it states that the study is represented by 145 kids at six different schools across three different states. The tested kids had three different racial make ups with the majority of white Americans and black Americans and also “racial diverse.” It is evident that the kids pick up their social patterns from the adults they spend majority of time with. Its unfortunate but not surprising on the results that come up from the study. By the age of six, these kids are highly aware of race and have began to form there own ideas, stemming from how they see these adults feel and perceive about race in there own surroundings. The research shows that overall, young white Americans are far more negative about interaction with the races, then are black Americans.

Parents might not be telling there kids to grow up being racist, but the subtle messages do have a big impact on them growing up. Its not only just the parents, its the messages they see on tv and also online. Kids pick on too much nowadays, and whatever they pick up stays within in them for a long time. Its our job as parents to make sure that our kids are experiencing as much diversity as possible, not just at school for some hours. There should be no discrimination shown to our kids, so if they want to bring a friend home who is the opposite color, they shouldn’t have to feel worried that their parents will say no. I advise everyone to check out this video clip, and hopefully we can stir up a conversation of both sides on this topic.


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8 Responses to Are parents teaching kids racism subliminally?

  1. dalex019 says:

    My mother has been teaching kindergarten all my life. She often tells me stories of when she has to try to un-tech children things they picked up at home including things about race. Very recently she told me about an instance in which a white girl refused to play with any girl of color because they were “dirty.” She tells me that same thing that the video says which is that often it isn’t that that parent are racist but that they avoid much needed conversations with their children. These kinds of things really do start at home.

    • As parents or guardians we should teach tolerance as well as compassion. It is so important to begin open conversation with children about race at an early age so they are open to diversity and more accepting when they reach adulthood. Implicit bias is something that parents should be aware of and try to change since this has long lasting effects on children.
      When I was a kid a little girl in my kindergarten class asked our teacher, who was a Catholic nun, if she touches the little black girl in our class will she turn black. The nun handled it very well and reassured the little girl that she wouldn’t. They both hugged that day and were best friends after that. As an adult I have heard an African American child say that when it rains white kids smell like dogs right in front of her parent and the parent did not bother to correct her.
      It does begin at home and there has to be an open and honest conversation about race, that is, if the idea of unity and co-existence is appealing.

  2. jenahmoody says:

    I remember as a child, I think I was in the second grade, being on the softball field because the gym teacher was making us run laps. There was a little boy walking and cring, he was African Amercian, and so I stopped to see what was wrong. I don’t remember exactly what is was, I think it was something about his grandmother, and I was holding his hand trying to make him feel better when the gym teacher came up and yanked us apart, yelling that white girls do not hold hands with black boys. she made me start running again but she kept talking to him. I don’t know what happened after that. I went home that day and talked to my dad about it and we had a talk about race, which I think he handled very well. That memeory has stuck with me all these years, and I believe that it was a pivital moment for me growing up when my dad explained that what she had said was wrong and cruel and should not be condoned or tolerated. From then on, that is what I believed. I can only imagine if my dad had been someone different and had said that racism was OK, what kind of person I would be today. It’s very important to teach our children these things early, when children will soak these issues up like sponges. Little lessons like the one I had could shape who they grow up to be.

    • J says:

      That is a great story.

      I think the next step of that would have been for your dad to go talk to the principal about the teacher’s actions. That’s where the courage we all seek comes in. Our soccer coach and wife recently witnessed a teacher shrugging another kid. I don’t think it was racially driven but our soccer coach’s wife took it upon herself to do something about it. It wasn’t her kid but she saw her kid in that situation. It got so bad that the principal, vice principal, and teacher were released of their duty. There was history of this type of stuff and it took her to speak up. The leadership at the school even threatened the victim’s mom who was getting a divorce. Told her: “how would it look if your kid was threatened with violence under your supervision versus your husband?” Got her to not cooperate with the coach’s wife. The coach’s wife didn’t back down. This battle lasted 9 months even when the original victim’s parents backed down. That’s courage and I can’t say I would even risk the effects of being so courageous (i.e. – “coach’s daughter still goes to the school and teachers are visibly mean to her; they’ve considered new school…).

  3. Great topic. I think the short answer has to be, “Yes.” Nobody today thinks they’re overtly racist yet we live in a world where racism is persistent. This should point us towards the role played by tacit culture, those learned behaviors that lie outside our ordinary awareness, in sustaining racialized thinking. Of course the enculturation process begins at home, so this has to play a central role in the perpetuation of racism whether we’re aware of it or not.

    For more on this see The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism

  4. rcfalcon says:

    Kids learn by watching and listening. If the parents are white and only associate with their own race, then the child is most likely to do the same thing. Children are born innocent, they don’t know the difference in race, so of course the parents are unconsciously teaching their kids racism. I believe all that is going to change in a few years. Interracial relationships and marriages are on the rise, meaning interracial kids are being born. Those kids wont see race when they look at a person, they will just see an individual and will be able to better interact with all human race.

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  6. jcole053 says:

    Racism is a terrible thing and has a been a prevalent part of the United States’ culture. As a child I did not know the word racism or what the term meant. My mother was a single-parent working two jobs, so I spent a lot of time with my baby sitter and her children who were all African American. Throughout pre-school, kindergarden, and first grade my best friend was African American. The only difference I remember being focused on as a child was how long we had to stay at church when I spent the night at his house. Reading, watching, and learning more about history the more I understand why everyone did not share the same childhood memories with different races. It is crazy to think that some of our parents lived through desegregation and pure ignorance. I am proud to live in a community and attend a University that embraces diversity.

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