NBCs websites assertion Although children are not born prejudiced, they often learn to hate before they are old enough to understand why, raises some interesting questions:
Would children indeed not notice racial differences without society conditioning them to do so?
What is the best way to keep your children from disliking blacks and Hispanics?
In polite society, it is widely maintained that race is purely a social constructiona factual illusion. Deviating from this dogma is costly. For example: back in 1994 neoconservative columnist Michael Barone bravely defended The Bell Curve. But by the time of his 2001 book The New Americans, Barone had apparently realized racial realism was dangerous. Therefore he started making pronouncements about race that were of an intellectual depth more appropriate for Sean Hayes.
Babies do not distinguish between people of African and European descent; they recognize only other human beings. They have to be taught to differentiate between blacks and whites.
Bunk. That young children have to be taught to distinguish races is simply not true.
For example, when my oldest son was starting preschool, he informed us that his new friend Orville was brown. Orville is what American grown-ups call black, but my son had never heard that, so he used the more chromatically accurate term brown.
When we asked our son what he was, he replied, Im pink.
Well, how about your friend Diego?
Hes . . . pinkish-brown, he announced decisively.
What toddlers think about race has been studied extensively in controlled experiments. In his book Race in the Making, the liberal U. of Michigan anthropology professor Lawrence A. Hirschfeld sums up his findings:
As comforting as this [social constructionist] view may be, children, I will show in this book, are more than aware of diversity; they are driven by endogenous curiosity to uncover it. Children, I will also show, do not believe race to be a superficial quality of the world. Multicultural curricula aside, few people believe that race is only skin deep. Certainly few 3-year-olds do. They believe that race is an intrinsic, immutable, and essential aspect of a persons identity. Moreover, they seem to come to this conclusion on their own. They do not need to be taught that race is a deep property, they know it themselves already.
For instance, if you show preschoolers pictures of women and children and ask them to match the kids with their mommies, on average they will correctly tell you that the skinny white child belongs to the fat white mommy, while the fat black child belongs to the skinny black mommy (or vice-versa).
These toddlers have already figured out that race is a better predictor of family relationship, a subject that concerns them deeply, than is body shape. They have already begun to grasp a truth that eludes almost all adult intellectuals: that racial groups are extended families.
So your children will notice racial differences, no matter what you do.