Well-intentioned parents who want their kids to grow up in a colorblind world avoid discussing race. But a new study involving white families reveals that when parents keep quiet about skin color, young children will discriminate based on race.
The findings from the Children's Research Lab at the University of Texas are featured in this week's Newsweek. Here's an example of how researchers gauge the children's attitudes about race:
Asked how many white people are mean, these children commonly answered, "Almost none." Asked how many blacks are mean, many answered, "Some," or "A lot." Even kids who attended diverse schools answered the questions this way.
The researchers then asked parents to discuss interracial friendship with their children every night for a week straight. When the kids came back to be questioned again, almost none of the opinions changed. Only six of the children dramatically improved their racial attitudes. What was it about these children? The researchers found that every family, except for these six, avoided talking explicitly about race. Instead, they sent their kids the vague message that "everybody is equal." To find out why parents tended to be so vague, read more.
The study suggested that parents are reluctant to discuss race because they worry that such an education passes on society's tendency to classify people based on the color of their skin. But it seems that even if an adult never mentions race, kids can be prone to favor people who look similar to themselves. Thus, staying silent about skin color might not be the best way to go.
Do you think it's possible to move toward a "colorblind" society, or will we always have to deal with openly with race?