006: Wait, is my toddler racist?


I’d always assumed that if I didn’t mention race to my daughter, if it was just a non-issue, that she wouldn’t grow up to be racist.  Boy, was I wrong about that.  It turns out that our brains are wired to make generalizations about people, and race is a pretty obviously noticeable way of categorizing people.  If your child is older than three, try tearing a few pictures of white people and a few more of black people out of a magazine and ask him to group them any way he likes.  Based on the research, I’d put money on him sorting the pictures by race.

So what have we learned about reversing racism once it has already developed?  How can we prevent our children from becoming racist in the first place?  And where do they learn these things anyway? (Surprise: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”)


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Castelli, L., Zogmaister, C., & Tomelleri, S. (2009). The transmission of racial attitudes within the family. Developmental Psychology 45(2), 586-591.

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TMZ (2012). Michael Richards spews racist hate. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoLPLsQbdt0

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von Hippel, W., Silver, L.A., & Lynch, M.E. (2000). Stereotyping against your will: The role of inhibitory ability in stereotyping and prejudice among the elderly. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 26(5), 523-532. Full article available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/William_Von_Hippel/publication/255604292_Stereotyping_Against_Your_Will_The_Role_of_Inhibitory_Ability_in_Stereotyping_and_Prejudice_among_the_Elderly/links/5475035a0cf245eb43707162.pdf

Weber, S., & Meilan, I. (2015). Michael Richards: My racist outburst during 2006 stand-up gig was a “reality check.” Us Magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/michael-richards-my-racist-outburst-in-2006-was-a-reality-check-20152310

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