Wednesday, March 29, 2017

5 Ways to Exclude Racial Bias in Kids




"Five Ways to Reduce Racial Bias in Your Children," is a recent essay from The Greater Good website of UC Berkeley. The following is an edited (for space purposes) copy of that essay. Click on the above link for the entire post.

Here are some of the ways that parents can help reduce negative bias in their children.

1. Expose kids to more positive images of other racial groups

Kids are immersed in negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media and culture, just as adults are. To counteract that, parents can expose kids through stories, books, and films to more positive, counter-stereotypical images of people from different racial and ethnic groups—including moral exemplars like Martin Luther King Jr. or Dolores Huerta. In studies with adults, this type of intervention has been shown over and over to be one of the most effective ways of decreasing bias.

2. Help your kids develop cross-group friendships

Research suggests that cross-race friendships are an important factor in decreasing prejudice, probably because they help decrease stress and fears of rejection that may occur in cross-group situations. Having a friend from another group may also remove barriers to empathy and caring, which in turn decreases prejudice.

Research shows that having contact with different racial or social groups—especially when that contact is warm and positive—helps to decrease prejudice and to encourage more cross-group friendships. In a study with school kids of various ages, students who had higher levels of cross-race contact—including cross-race friendships—were more likely to see the way race plays a role in social exclusion and to view that behavior negatively.

3. Cultivate cross-group friendships yourself

Parents can help normalize cross-group friendships by role-modeling them for their kids. This may seem superfluous, but research has shown that children’s racial attitudes are less tied to parents’ explicit messages around race than to the racial makeup of the parents’ social network.

Why does having cross-race friendships have such a strong impact on bias? Mendoza-Denton says ...
“It’s so much more organic to reduce bias by developing intergroup friendships, because it changes your attitudes through a very human mechanism, which is the interpersonal.” ... Once friendship grows, empathy develops organically, says Mendoza-Denton.

4. Talk explicitly about race and the effects of racism

Many black parents give explicit instructions to their kids about the importance of race in society and what they can do to mitigate any bias they encounter. But well-meaning white parents are less likely to bring up race with their children, perhaps fearing that doing so would mean they don’t value egalitarianism or believe in a “post-race” society. The problem with that approach is that not talking about race can create a vacuum of information, which leads children to absorb biases around them—often in ways that are counter to parents’ own held values.

In one study, researchers had white parents read books depicting racial issues to their preschool-aged children (under the guise of studying the effects of literature on learning) while being videotaped. Racial attitudes were measured and compared afterwards in both parents and their children.

In fact, research suggests that parents need to be much more explicit about racism and its effects. When white parents were asked to have race-related discussions with their kids—either with or without watching educational videos about race—their children showed more favorable attitudes toward racial outgroup members only if their parents discussed race directly. Interestingly, though, the researchers had trouble getting the parents to have these discussions—even when instructed to do so as part of the study. Apparently, there are psychological barriers to discussing race among many Caucasian parents.

5. Work to combat biases in yourself

Research clearly shows that the impact of parent bias on kids shouldn’t be underestimated. Although explicit biases have negative effects on kids, implicit bias can also impact children.

In one study, researchers found that very young children exhibited more explicit negative bias if their mothers held implicit biases—regardless of their explicit messaging. There can be a mismatch between what parents say and their unconscious reactions toward minority groups—and children seem to pick up on this.

... Research suggests that automatic biases can be countered by deliberate attempts to counter them, exposure to moral exemplars, or positive cross-race interactions. In other words, much of what influences children may also influence you.


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