Show Me the Unbiased Child: Studies on Racial Biases

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

On August 28, 1963, the great Dr. Martin Luther King spoke these legendary words at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Now, almost half a century later, King’s words have yet to come to fruition. Because despite the popular “post-racial” stance held by many North Americans, it seems as if even King’s little children themselves would not only be judged by the color of their skin, but judge other children by the color of their skin as well.

Earlier this week, Anderson Cooper of CNN aired an AC360 special coverage titled “Black or White: Kids on race,” a pilot study that will be investigating children’s attitude towards race. The end results? Race biases are real and thriving in today’s society, apparently stemming from an early age. Check out a clip of the special below:

Cooper’s study is reminiscent of the 1940’s doll study experiments performed by Kenneth and Mamie Clark, the psychologist couple whose work contributed to the Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education that deemed segregated education unconstitutional.  More specifically, “The Souls of Black Girls,” directed by Daphne Valerius, and “A Girl Like Me,” directed by Kiri Davis, both explored the perceptions of race held by teenage black girls. In addition to skin color biases, the young women interviewed for the films also discussed perceptions of hair, a hot button topic within the black community.

With issues as significant and sensitive as racial biases, the solutions are tenfold, and yet very difficult to determine. For instance, should parents school their three year olds about the ignorance surrounding racial differences? Perhaps, but the burden for this racial bias should weigh down on the media as much as it should on parents. Movies and television both have a tremendous impact on young minds and the way they perceive others in society, hence the urgent need for multidimensional representations of people of color in the media. By supporting organizations such as BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc. whose missions and goals are dedicated to overhauling the negative biases held towards people of color, particularly young women, you are making a direct impact on the young, impressionable minds of the next generation to come; and hopefully, as a result, studies such as Cooper’s, the Clark’s, Valerius’ and Davis’ will become unnecessary.

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