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Old 09-10-2009, 08:56 PM   #1
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Are babies racist?

Even Babies Discriminate: A NurtureShock Excerpt. | Newsweek Life | Newsweek.com

Fascinating and insightful article. It really emphasizes something I've longed believed. . .that the well-intentioned tendency among many whites to pretend that race doesn't exist and that racism isn't a problem anymore can actually be quite damaging. . .

It's a long read, but worth it. I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts.
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:31 PM   #2
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I read the same article when I got the magazine in the mail today.

I remember reading years ago that human beings are attracted to those who look like them, not just racially, but also in the face. I also remember reading that when we are told a story about someone, we automatically think that person is of the same race as we are.

So, is it bigoted to prefer your own race? Its hard to say. It could mean racism, but does it also show how we've evolved? I mean, it's only been in recently in human history that society have been multiracial. Could it be that our brains are wired to prefer our own race because our ancestors saw that one race?

I hope I made sense.
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:42 PM   #3
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I honestly think it comes down to a matter of naturally being "attracted" to what you know. Which may mean being naturally attracted to those that look like you. I didn't read the whole article, but hope to when I have time. But were any of the subjects adopted children of different races than the parents?

I remember visiting a family friend's baby once, the child's whole family is olive skin, dark hair. That baby looked at me and screamed like a thunderstorm. I was the first pale redhead she'd ever seen. That whole day I had to stay out of her peripheral sight or she would cry. Two months later, I saw her again and no problem, in fact she's taken quite a liking to me now.
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:47 PM   #4
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I remember visiting a family friend's baby once, the child's whole family is olive skin, dark hair. That baby looked at me and screamed like a thunderstorm. I was the first pale redhead she'd ever seen. That whole day I had to stay out of her peripheral sight or she would cry. Two months later, I saw her again and no problem, in fact she's taken quite a liking to me now.
That reminds me of an article about Angelina Jolie. When she was in Africa, she approached a woman with her baby on her lap. The baby started to cry hysterically when it saw Jolie, and the mother explained that Jolie was the first white person the baby ever saw.
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:55 PM   #5
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A preference for the familiar is probably hardwired into our nature... it's what we do about it that matters.

True enough that multiracial society is a relatively recent occurance, after all the Roman Empire is one minute to midnight on our evolutionary clock. I'd say the real fact of it all is that like all living creatures we are not accustomed to thinking on extremely long timescales. The fact that (apparently) all the ostensible races may have descended from a relatively homogenous bottleneck population in north Africa 100,000 or so years ago, if it is a fact, nonetheless doesn't really register on the intuitive level. If people seem different, they seem different.

So in my view all of that is base human nature. When it becomes a petrie dish for ahistorical racial supremacy narratives and other assorted vileness, is when the problems begin.
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:01 PM   #6
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What a fasinating and very accurate article. Thanks for posting Sean, I enjoyed it a lot.

The researchers covered a lot of ground that I'm familiar with. All people categorize every person and thing in their environments at all times. It's how we, as humans, make sense of our environments without mentally overtaxing ourselves. These categorizations often take place preconsciously and very rapidly, and they occur starting with broad and general attributes (with race, of course, being one of the broadest) and move to the specific. It's been hypothsized that this categorization we engage in is an evolutionary mechanism, from when early man had to make these rapid judgments so that they could act and avoid being killed by a predator or an unfriendly outsider. It stands to reason that this begins at a very, very young age, as the author spoke of when mentioning that six month olds spend more time looking at the faces of people from different races.

I also thought it interesting when the author spoke of having to explicitly talk to children about race in terms that they can understand, as opposed to speaking in a general, vague manner. If parents are not part of a racially diverse circle, how else are the children going to learn that those who are racially different from them are as worthy as they are? This makes intuitive sense to me.

I can't understand the reluctance to talk about racial or cultural differences. Maybe that's a result of the society I was raised in. Canada is thought of as a cultural mosaic, whereby people of different races live side by side, different but equal; where racial and cultural differences are acknowledged and embraced, theoretically. On the other hand, America is still known for being a melting pot, where races are supposed to assimilate and come together. As much as this term and way of thinking is outdated, it seems that it's still a concept that is accepted in many parts of America.

All of this reminds me of a thread from my very early days as a member of Interference. Someone asked why U2 seems to attract a primarily white fanbase in the US. I thought that this thread would provide a really good basis for discussion about cultural preferences and the like, but very soon after it got really ugly, with the thread starter being accused of being a racist, and many people denied that there are racial preferences when it comes to music. Granted, there are probably more differences in preference within group than there are between group, but still, differences exist, and I don't understand why it's offensive to talk about them. I guess it's maybe the way that people overcompensate for generations of racism - they do so by denying that differences exist. I think it's an honest but misguided effort to bring about racial equality, to have race not matter anymore. We are one AND the same. Except we're not, so why pretend we are?

Just some of my off the cuff initial thoughts. Interested to read what the rest of you might have to say.
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Old 09-11-2009, 09:40 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Kieran McConville View Post
A preference for the familiar is probably hardwired into our nature... it's what we do about it that matters.


And you can only do something truly constructive about it when you openly acknowledge the tendency.

EDIT: I read VP's post after I wrote this, she put much more (and better) effort behind articulating the idea than I did.
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Old 09-11-2009, 11:25 PM   #8
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It's not a stretch that some in FYM would label babies racists.

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Old 09-12-2009, 02:22 PM   #9
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It's not a stretch that some in FYM would label babies racists.

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You always find a way to raise the level of discourse, don't you?
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Old 09-12-2009, 05:53 PM   #10
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I don't know if babies are born racists

but I did read somewhere that many baby girls are born with lesbian tendencies.
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Old 09-12-2009, 06:52 PM   #11
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I don't know if babies are born racists

but I did read somewhere that many baby girls are born with lesbian tendencies.
Dr Dobson says that can be fixed with a rubberband.
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Old 09-12-2009, 07:28 PM   #12
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I think it also has to do with the way the person holding them is looking at them. Babies can easily detect when someone is nervous, anxious, scared, annoyed and so on by them.
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Old 09-13-2009, 01:55 AM   #13
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I can't understand the reluctance to talk about racial or cultural differences. Maybe that's a result of the society I was raised in. Canada is thought of as a cultural mosaic, whereby people of different races live side by side, different but equal; where racial and cultural differences are acknowledged and embraced, theoretically. On the other hand, America is still known for being a melting pot, where races are supposed to assimilate and come together. As much as this term and way of thinking is outdated, it seems that it's still a concept that is accepted in many parts of America.
I do think there's something to this, but the unique history of antiblack racism in the US shouldn't be underestimated as a factor in these differences, either. For almost two centuries black Americans were brought here only by force and only for the purpose of serving as, frankly, draft animals for white people, not as actual fellow humans with "cultures" worthy of note from which they might "assimilate"; and the impact of that dynamic and the racial ideologies supporting it, the perception of it as our national 'original sin,' distinguish black/white tension from all other forms of racial tension in US society (let alone the related impact of a subsequent century's worth of institutional segregation, and the racial ideologies supporting that). So it can be a bit more loaded here to get into generalizing about differences between subcultures--particularly when those overlap with racial differences, and most of all when they overlap with the black/white racial distinction specifically, because of the history of that kind of distinction-drawing in our country. It's not just the influence of the "melting pot" metaphor (and actually, since probably the 1970s you hardly ever hear that phrase used here anymore...nonetheless, the thinking behind it is clearly still out there).
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It really emphasizes something I've longed believed. . .that the well-intentioned tendency among many whites to pretend that race doesn't exist and that racism isn't a problem anymore can actually be quite damaging. . .
I'm not so sure it could unproblematically be labeled "well-intentioned." Because I think on some level it usually evinces a desire to evade parental accountability for what ought to be a standard part of the moral nurturing of one's children. To protect one's image as an irreproachably 'neutral' white person who could never be faulted for anything (and whom only an 'angry, irrational' black person could disagree with) where racial sensibilities are concerned.
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Old 09-13-2009, 03:21 AM   #14
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I do think there's something to this, but the unique history of antiblack racism in the US shouldn't be underestimated as a factor in these differences, either. For almost two centuries black Americans were brought here only by force and only for the purpose of serving as, frankly, draft animals for white people, not as actual fellow humans with "cultures" worthy of note from which they might "assimilate"; and the impact of that dynamic and the racial ideologies supporting it, the perception of it as our national 'original sin,' distinguish black/white tension from all other forms of racial tension in US society (let alone the related impact of a subsequent century's worth of institutional segregation, and the racial ideologies supporting that). So it can be a bit more loaded here to get into generalizing about differences between subcultures--particularly when those overlap with racial differences, and most of all when they overlap with the black/white racial distinction specifically, because of the history of that kind of distinction-drawing in our country. It's not just the influence of the "melting pot" metaphor (and actually, since probably the 1970s you hardly ever hear that phrase used here anymore...nonetheless, the thinking behind it is clearly still out there).
I understand all that, and perhaps I should have said that my "within group differences/between group differences" statement obviously applies to a lot more than just taste in music, but the fact remains that there are some tendencies between cultures and races that are different, in general. History, and the effort to recover from that history does make generalizing a tricky thing, but the extent to which these seemingly very progressive-minded people have difficulty in speaking about race to their children except in the vaguest of terms, I found really surprising.

Part of me wonders if it's not less a case of them being uncomfortable with race, and more a case of their underestimating the ability of their children to comprehend something that they themselves probably see as being very complex and loaded.
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Old 09-13-2009, 06:13 AM   #15
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yes, babies are racist.
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Old 09-13-2009, 12:02 PM   #16
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Part of me wonders if it's not less a case of them being uncomfortable with race, and more a case of their underestimating the ability of their children to comprehend something that they themselves probably see as being very complex and loaded.
I really doubt it. It's pretty much only white parents who do this.
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Old 09-13-2009, 04:59 PM   #17
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I found the study interesting also in the way the children assigned characteristics to the races as to who is nice, who is mean, who is varying descriptive terms. It reminded me of several studies where children see essentially the same dichotomy when shown pictures of attractive or unattractive people. I don't think it is purely racial bias in action here, but it is troubling in its connotations since it is widespread and prejudges people almost purely on the way they look without any basis in the reality of their characteristics.

I found Vintage Punk's comments to be interesting and true to a point from my own reading on the subject.

Quote:
The researchers covered a lot of ground that I'm familiar with. All people categorize every person and thing in their environments at all times. It's how we, as humans, make sense of our environments without mentally overtaxing ourselves. These categorizations often take place preconsciously and very rapidly, and they occur starting with broad and general attributes (with race, of course, being one of the broadest) and move to the specific. It's been hypothsized that this categorization we engage in is an evolutionary mechanism, from when early man had to make these rapid judgments so that they could act and avoid being killed by a predator or an unfriendly outsider. It stands to reason that this begins at a very, very young age, as the author spoke of when mentioning that six month olds spend more time looking at the faces of people from different races.
But there appears to be more going on there than that (not that I'm suggesting Vintage Punk stopped there, which she did not)
I also found it encouraging that there was improvement when the parents actually talked the issue out rather than in abstracts and the term "equality" is an abstract without discussion of what it really means in the day to day.

I looked in the article to see if included in the study was the perception of black children when shown similar photographs and their responses. I would like to see the results there to get a bigger picture.
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Old 09-13-2009, 10:12 PM   #18
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I really doubt it. It's pretty much only white parents who do this.
You're correct, but it could also be that parents of minority children have extra incentive to discuss these topics with their children, where white parents, by virtue of their being the majority for whom racism is not a factor, have less motivation to broach what they could perceive to be a complex and weighty topic that might be difficult for their child to comprehend. Not saying that's the only factor, certainly, but I do wonder if that's not part of it.

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I found Vintage Punk's comments to be interesting and true to a point from my own reading on the subject.



But there appears to be more going on there than that (not that I'm suggesting Vintage Punk stopped there, which she did not)
Definitely there's more going on than that. I was offering the generally accepted reason as to why babies behave this way, but certainly as children grow older, the pick up various social cues, etc, that would come to influence their behaviour far more than a brief cognitive categorization mechanism.

Quote:

I looked in the article to see if included in the study was the perception of black children when shown similar photographs and their responses. I would like to see the results there to get a bigger picture.
I don't have time to check at the moment, but you're right, that would be interesting to find out. I can't recall ever hearing of a study that looked at minority children in this way, but I'm sure there must be something out there. For the babies looking at faces, I'm pretty sure that I've heard of studies where this phenomenon holds true for all races (I can't remember if the article specified this or not).
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Old 09-14-2009, 12:47 AM   #19
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Okay, I looked up a few things. I'll copy and paste some, and then try to briefly summarize a very recent study I found that was just published in the Journal of Black Psychology last month.

Kenneth and Mamie Clark - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Kenneth Bancroft Clark (July 24, 1914–May 1, 2005) and Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983) were African-American psychologists who as a married team conducted important research among children and were active in the Civil Rights Movement. They founded the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem and the organization Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU). Kenneth Clark also was an educator and professor at City College, and first Black president of the American Psychological Association.

They were known for their 1940s experiments using dolls to study children's attitudes about race.

...

The Clarks' doll experiments grew out of Mamie Clark's master's degree thesis. They published three major papers between 1939 and 1940 on children's self perception related to race. Their studies found contrasts among children attending segregated schools in Washington, DC versus those in integrated schools in New York. They found that Black children often preferred to play with white dolls over black; that, asked to fill in a human figure with the color of their own skin, they frequently chose a lighter shade than was accurate; and that the children gave the color "white" attributes such as good and pretty, but "black" was qualified as bad and ugly.[12] They viewed the results as evidence that the children had internalized racism caused by being discriminated against and stigmatized by segregation.

The Clarks testified as expert witnesses in several school desegregation cases, including Briggs v. Elliott, which was later combined into the famous Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional.

In 2006 filmmaker Kiri Davis recreated the doll study and documented it in a film entitled A Girl Like Me. Despite the many changes in some parts of society, she found the same results as did the Drs. Clark in their study of the late 1930s and early 1940s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Girl_...e_(documentary)

Quote:
A Girl Like Me is a 2005 award-winning documentary by Kiri Davis. The seven-minute documentary examines such things as the importance of color, hair and facial features for young African American women. It won the Diversity Award at the 6th Annual Media That Matters film festival in New York City, and has received coverage on on various American media sources, such as CNN, ABC, NPR. The documentary has been shown on HBO and is available, in its entirety, on mediathatmattersfest.org. The documentary was made as part of Reel Works Teen Filmmaking.

The video begins with interviews with Kiri and her peers about how 'black' features did not conform to society's standards of beauty. The next section was a repeat of an experiment conducted by Kenneth Clark in the 1940s where African-American children were asked to choose between black or white dolls. In the original experiment(s) the majority of the children choose the white dolls. When Davis repeated the experiment 15 out of 21 children also choose the white dolls over the black, giving similar reasons as the original subjects, associating white with being "pretty" or "good" and black with "ugly" or "bad". The dolls used in the documentary were identical except for skin colour.
The documentary can be viewed here:

The new study I found is not available online unless you're subscribed to a database that gives you access, but I have a full copy that I'd be happy to e-mail to anyone who would like to read it over.


Hernandez-Reif, M., & Jordan, P. (2009). Reexamination of Young Children's Racial Attitudes and Skin Tone Preferences. Journal of Black Psychology, 35, 388-403.

This study looked at 40 children, evenly divided between black and white boys and girls, with an average age of just over 4 years old.

1) They showed each child computer drawn cartoons of 4 children, one with white skin, one with light brown skin, one with medium brown skin, and one with dark brown skin, and then they asked the child to identify which of the four cartoon children could be their best friend. This question was thought to show colour preference.

2) Then each child was shown two cartoon children, one black and one white, and were asked the following:
Who:
(1) you would like as a “playmate or best friend,”
(2) “looks nice,”
(3) “looks bad,”
(4) has a “nice skin color,”
(5) “looks like a White child,”
(6) “looks like a Black child,” and
(7) “looks like you”

These are the same questions used in the Clark & Clark study.

In addition to making a choice, they were also told they could choose to respond "none" or "both."

3) After answering the questions, the children were split into equal groups where half the children heard a neutral story about a duck, and the other half of the children heard a more moralistic story about a black child saving a duck.

4) After hearing the story, both groups of children were asked the same questions again.

The results are quite involved so I'm not going to attempt to cover them all. Again, if you want to read the detailed results, PM me and I'll send you a copy of the study, but in general, it was shown that after hearing the moralistic story of the black child saving the duck, black children answered the questions in a more positive way toward their race.

The message this seems to provide is that when black children receive positive input about members of their race, they tend to respond more positively to questions about blacks, and they seem more readily to identify as black. This, of course, is in contrast to the original Clark & Clark doll study.

The question I would have about this study's results is how long the effects of the positive reinforcement last. Is it just long enough for the questions to be answered more positively, or is it a sustained effect? How often do children need this kind of reinforcement in order to consistently think more positively about their race?
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Old 09-16-2009, 01:43 PM   #20
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So, everyone is born Republican?
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