Study: Black Children More Optimistic On Race Than White Children

Young black children have more positive attitudes toward interracial interactions than white children. That’s according to a new study [PDF] commissioned by CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° and conducted by psychologists.

Researchers used ambiguous illustrations of black and white children interacting on a playground. About 38 percent of black 6-year-olds viewing the illustrations created negative story lines about what was happening, compared to 70 percent of white 6-year-olds viewing the same images.

But the optimism in young black children doesn’t hold through the years, researchers found. A similar exercise was conducted among 13-year-old students, and by then, the black children were just as pessimistic as the white children. Psychologist Melanie Killen told CNN that black children’s experiences with racism through the years likely explains the dampened positivity.

“African American parents … are very early on preparing their children for the world of diversity and also for the world of potential discrimination,” said Killen, adding, “they’re certainly talking about issues of race and what it means to be a different race and when it matters and when it doesn’t matter.”

In contrast, the negativity for white children could be more of a result of what parents are not saying to their children than what they are saying. Dr. Killen contends that white parents often believe their children are socially colorblind and race is not an issue necessary to address. “They sort of have this view that if you talk about race, you are creating a problem and what we’re finding is that children are aware of race very early,” said Killen.

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