Kids see race.

Kids see race visualization

A reminder that it is never too early to talk to young children about race, racism and racial equality.

Studies have found that most white parents take a ‘colour blind’ approach by trying to avoid discussing differences in race with children (Loyd & Gaither, 2018)[4]. Parents of children of colour are around three times more likely to have these discussions (Brown et al. 2007)[5], though some may still consider preschool-aged children too young for this (Katz & Kofkin, 1997)[6].

Trying to avoid pointing out racial differences to children can be well intentioned. Research, however, shows that this approach can actually promote racial inequality (Apfelbaum et al. 2010)[7]. Children notice race from an early age and their brains are programmed to categorise the world around them. By failing to teach them the value of these differences, children will draw their own conclusions and prevalent racial stereotypes will remain unchallenged.

Having open, age-appropriate conversations about race with young children are associated with lower levels of bias (Katz, 2003)[8]. These conversations need to be ongoing and frequent. It is a positive step to read books with more diverse characters, for example, but this should be accompanied by explicit discussions with children about race.

Some useful resources:

On opening the conversation with children about race (including very young children):

Anti-racism resources for white people. This provides a compilation of resources including books, podcasts, articles, Instagram accounts to follow to help white people, particularly parents, better understand racism (opens a Google Doc):

For a more comprehensive review of the discussion I have introduced here, see this paper by Erin Winkler:

(First three references are from the image)

[1] Kelly, D. J., Quinn, P. C., Slater, A. M., Lee, K., Gibson, A., Smith, M., Ge, L., & Pascalis, O. (2005). Three-month-olds, but not newborns, prefer own-race faces. Developmental science, 8(6), F31–F36.

[2] Reviewed in: Winkler, Erin. (2009). Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race. PACE: Practical Approaches for Continuing Education 3(3):1-8. HighReach Learning.

[3] Reviewed in: Loyd, A. B., & Gaither, S. E. (2018). Racial/ethnic socialization for White youth: What we know and future directions. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 59, 54–64.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Brown, T. N., Tanner-Smith, E. E., Lesane-Brown, C. L., & Ezell, M. E. (2007). Child, Parent, and Situational Correlates of Familial Ethnic/Race Socialization. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(1), 14–25.

[6] Katz, P. A., & Kofkin, J. A. (1997). Race, gender, and young children. In S. A. Luthar, J. A. Burack, D. Cicchetti, & J. R. Weisz (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology: Perspectives on adjustment, risk, and disorder (pp. 51 – 74). New York: Cambridge University Press

[7] Apfelbaum, Evan & Pauker, Kristin & Sommers, Samuel & Ambady, Nalini. (2010). In Blind Pursuit of Racial Equality?. Psychological science. 21. 1587-92.

[8] Katz P. A. (2003). Racists or tolerant multiculturalists? How do they begin?. The American psychologist, 58(11), 897–909.

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