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Mom Cries Over Kid's Response to Race Test

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A 5-year-old in Georgia took part in a CNN study about race. And her answers to the questions stunned her mother so much it brought tears to her eyes.

Mom Cries Over Kid's Response To Race Test

The girl, a Caucasian, examined five cartoon images of girls -- all identical save for their skin color, which ranged from light to dark. The administrator asked who the smart child was, and the girl pointed to a fair-skinned doll. When asked who the mean child was, she pointed to a dark-skinned doll. The little girl justified her choice by saying that the white girl was good because "she looks like me." She called the black child ugly because "she's a lot darker." Her mom, bearing witness to this sad reveal, just started crying. And what's even more sad and disturbing is, her daughter wasn't the only kid responding in this way.

This CNN pilot study, designed to discern children's attitudes about race, show that white children have "an overwhelming [positive] bias" toward other white people, and that black children feel the same about white children -- but not nearly as emphatically.

Of 133 children from eight N.Y.C. and Georgia schools that fit the very specific economic and demographic requirements of the study, it was discovered that white parents don't discuss race with their kids as much as black parents do.

The 5-year-old's mom said that her daughter had "never asked [me] about color" and that they "talked a long time about it" after the study. Apparently this is somewhat typical. Back in 2007, a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family revealed that 75 percent of white families with kindergartners never, or almost never, talk about race. But what's interesting is that 75 percent of black parents DO address race issues with their kids.

One dad of an African-American participant said of the study, "You cannot get away from the fact that race is a factor, but hopefully what we instill in [our kids] at home will help them to put that in its right place and move on."

Do you feel it's necessary to discuss race issues with your kindergartner?

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19 comments so far | Post a comment now
Charles May 19, 2010, 2:25 PM

As long as we make race an issue, it will be an issue. Like Morgan Freeman said, “Stop talking about it.” Until we treat everyone the same, we will never be the same.

Kay May 19, 2010, 2:39 PM

Not talking about it is not going to make it go away. I feel as a parent it is your duty to teach your kids everything they need to know and different races is what the world something the world consist of. I think it is very important to discuss race with your child unless you want to be embarassed when your child says something stupid when encountering another race.

iris May 19, 2010, 3:23 PM

Yes, you must talk about it. We don’t live in a color blind world and they need to be ready to stand up to racism.

Puzzled May 19, 2010, 3:39 PM

Here’s what I want to know…if the picture-girls were all exactly the same except for their skin color, how is any kid going to be able to tell which is the mean one, smart one, etc. UNLESS she bases it on skin color??? As for more kids picking the fairest girl-picture for the good characteristics and the darkest girl-picture for the bad characteristics, for things that AREN’T about skin color, lighter is usually better. Light sky over dark, cloudy sky; daytime over dark, scary (to kids) night….and any fantasy story (White/black Knight…or wizard, or mage or whatever).

emily May 19, 2010, 5:41 PM

well I think that maybe the child is too young to understand other than that young kids should learn how to not care about races

friend May 19, 2010, 6:12 PM

I have to agree with Puzzled… just as any Disney movies portray the evil characters as ugly and awkward, relatively scary and mean looking, in real life, you can’t really tell who’s nice and who’s not, let alone judge them by appearances, whether it’d be race, sex, weight, color, etc.

On the other hand, i don’t think it’s a matter of “having a discussion” per se but acknowledging and celebrating differences. People think that if we don’t see differences, we won’t know differences… try to convince a child THAT! You teach them to recognize colors and numbers, good from bad, etc. During the process of growth, it’s all they’ve been in contact with… differences and how to differentiate.

Pamala May 19, 2010, 7:01 PM

I do have to say this seems more about good=light and bad=dark because that’s how it’s often portrayed in books and shows. And of course she identified the good one with herself so the only logical conclusion in her mind was to go to the opposite end of the spectrum for the bad one. It’s how children process.

My daughter has recently started mentioning how one of the children in her class is black or as she calls him dark colored. (She’s 4) But she just mentions it as something that identifies him, not that he’s bad in any way. Actually she says he’s the best in the class boy wise, the rest (all fair skinned) are the mean ones. So she doesn’t equate for whatever reason that good=light and bad=dark. At least not with people.

We don’t talk race, I did tell her why the boy wasn’t the same color as her. But we’ve always talked about how people look different, some have curly hair, some are short, some are tall, and some happen to be a different color. She seems to accept this and that’s that.

Dr. Roz May 20, 2010, 4:43 AM

WOW this little experiment is way behind! And totlaly inacurate as ALL races at a young age find their own race more attractive - whatever looks like them will be difned as good/right if they are ASKED/FORCED to choose. As a teacher turn child behavoiralist I’ve taken many a child psych class and had access to many similar studies - and it’s a KNOWN fact that all children below age 8/9 instinctually find their own race/color familiar/attractive when asked. And there is nothing racist about it - it’s familiarity. Black babies are more drawn to other black babies, Asian babies are the same and so are white. Let’s stop trying to keep pushing this non-existent “racism” towards African Americans. As a person of mixed-race I find it offensive that for some reason people want to act like there is still some big divide between blacks and whites when there really isn’t.

michelle May 20, 2010, 8:45 AM

Are you people serious? It’s naive and wrong to assume that the kids picked white because they were taught that a light sky is good, or some such nonsense. If that were true, then the black kids would have also picked white as consistently as the white kids. But they didn’t. Obviously there is a race-based component there. Or did only the white children’s perceptions count for you? I think white parents are living in denial and this is why we still have a racist society. Only someone with race privilege can have the luxury of not talking about race, or worse, saying “some kids have curly hair and some have straight hair” and thinking that is enough. White people think that they’re doing something about the persistent racism in this country by just sweeping it under the rug, while black people have no choice in the matter and are forced to confront race every day. It is this sweeping it under the rug that actually perpetuates racism. So maybe you people are fine with denial, but I for one am raising my white 5-year-old with a more reality-based (but still age-appropriate) view of the world. She knows that our society categorizes people in certain ways, but that we’re all human, and that there were once unfair laws against some of us. We actually discussed these things and provided moral guidance, as parents should do. We wouldn’t just let kids figure out other important issues by themselves with no guidance; why would we let them when it comes to race?

Danielle May 20, 2010, 9:25 AM

You asked a question that only made her think there was a right answer. That I better find which one is the bad girl. I don’t want the bad girl to look like me….hmmm…..why ask that question, why not ask a different question. Like what do these friends do today? What was there day like? Your the evil one, who would ask such a question. Your trying to create categories already by your words, by asking such a ridiculous question. You are saying she should judge others by guessing who is bad. Ridiculous!! It’s more of an issue if parent’s at home are racist and making racial slurrs or even ignoring a person who looks different than them. EVEN as simple as treating a person lowly when you need something fixed around the house. Remember you called for help not the other way around. You weren’t smart enough or educated enough to figure it out yourself. Don’t fill children’s minds with idea like that. Your just setting them up to be less of a human. We are all human so don’t be superficial unless you can take the heat of being so.

Anonymous May 20, 2010, 8:10 PM

Dr.Roz needs to go back to school! The black children didn’t even like their own skin complexion and thought lighter was better. Racism still exist it’s just hidden because it’s socially unacceptable.

Linda May 21, 2010, 11:58 AM

Speaking from my experience, I’ve had to explain race because my children asks the questions of why this? i,e. how come they only show the black dolls at the end of the commercial? How come there are no black people in the cartoons (Shrek)? Before Princess Ayianna, how come there are no black Princess’?

logical mom May 21, 2010, 2:54 PM

Yes-but careful not to teach hate based on what you experienced and/or were taught.We can’t generalize. I have met just as many blacks/mexicans who are biased against whites and teach their kids to think that way. I buy books with black/hispanic/indian themes/pictures and dolls that are all colors just like my friends are. This is normal to them and their friends are diverse, too.Oh and I have always told them not to judge a book by its cover.

mom in dc May 23, 2010, 5:48 PM

In answer to the last sentence of the story: of course! Other research also points to the importance of actively bringing up and discussing issues of race with children starting at a very young age. I wrote about my own family’s experience with this issue at

Speaks foe Itself May 28, 2010, 9:57 PM

I am an African American woman engaged to a caucasion man. And distinctly remember getting stared at by a young girl no older than 7 or 8. She gave us the same odd look a black or white would give…they learn it from some where. I highly doubt it’s just something of a preference. There are times where it goes deeper.

Cat June 7, 2010, 2:35 PM

I guess I was “raised right” I am white, and my best friend through my youngest years was black. It probably helped that my neighborhood literally had every race and religion one could think of in a quarter mile radius. I grew up 100% colorblind and hope to do the same with my children.

CJ June 14, 2010, 5:50 AM

My son (12 white) experienced something last week that had it been reverse, would have had people calling MY son racist. He was walking out of a friend’s garage, when another boy (about 7 and black) gave him the middle finger and said “F—- you, white boy!!” And NO, my son had done nothing! My son didn’t react and just kept on walking. It did give us a chance to discuss it - he thought I should go talk to his mother - hahaha - I told him no way, that at this kid’s age, his home life was probably what was causing it!! I told him that he did the right thing because this kid was looking for a reaction! My son has friends of all races and this had never happened to him - that is a good thing - but so sad to see such a young child doing it. See, if this had been reverse, there would have probably been an uproar over it - people never see this type of thing happening - supposedly, it doesn’t exist - yeah, right!!

commonsense June 18, 2010, 3:43 PM

Oh Lord, I’m sick of the constant pretension and insistance that everybody must be racist against blacks. Perhaps there’s another reason why most liked the lighter drawings better. Perhaps there’s a reason why white dogs are adopted more than black dogs. Perhaps there’s a reason why children are afraid of the dark and not the sunlight. Why not consider that we may be biolgically programmed to respond more positively to lighter things and examine that instead of making us like something we shouldnt be forced to and drawing the one and only tired, same old conclusion-racist! Racist! If there’s a more positive response to lighter things in human beings so what? Doesn’t mean lighter is better, just means there’s a reason we respond more positively. Figure out that reason instead of repeating the same thing with the same results over and over again-the unfair white or non-black guilt imposed on other people for having a right to their preference.

KimDione June 19, 2010, 9:05 PM

Yes you would be sick of it,commonsense because it doesnt affect you.Id much rather go about my daily life without having to think about race too.Except Im black And thats impossible.Im constantly reminded that im black and thought of as less than.It takes effort to be proud of yourself and not just break down and cry.Can you imagine if a 5yr old on her first trip to Disney had to see the cab driver yell at us and throw us out of the car (for being 5 min. late)and our bags behind us?A 5 yr old girl now wearing her Mouse Ears?He literally left us on the street in Orlando.Then while my lighter skinned child sat in Santas lap he asked if I were her mom,then said,”Shes not pretty enough to be your mom.”to my child!!!Seriously!!!I wish I were making this stufff up.It hurts,it happens.You need to be prepared.

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