Reading Racism To Our Children
Ending the cycle of racial bias introduced through books
I’ve written many times about how the images we’re fed in movies and television impact how we unconsciously feel about and act toward various groups of people and even ourselves.
But many of us don’t realize that children start forming views on race long before they’re watching Superman, Spiderman or Batman movies. Studies show that kids as young as two start noticing differences in skin color. Not necessarily in a bad way, but they notice, observationally.
When one of my own sons was three, he inquired about our Black neighbors. “Can brown people be Jewish?” The part that stuck out was that he described our neighbors as “brown” people. He literally saw their skin color and described them just by how they looked. Not black, but brown.
Whether a child’s views on skin color later turns out to be positive or negative comes next.
How many of us parents have watched a movie before our kids to see if it was appropriate? I sure did. How many of us read a review about a movie or television show on Common Sense Media to see how much violence, sexual content, drugs or foul language are in a particular show before allowing our six-year-old to see it. My daughter is so trained, that even as a teenager she knows to ask, “Can you look up this movie to see if it’s okay?”
It’s not rocket science to figure out that exposing young children to tons of violence, sex and bad language isn’t exactly healthy for a developing child’s mind. We’re trying to raise kind, respectful, caring and loving human beings, aren’t we? There’s a reason most parents don’t let their first graders watch R-rated movies.
I’ll leave for another day that maybe we should be looking at our visual entertainment from a racial angle, too, but one thing’s for sure. There aren’t enough parents examining children’s books and the racist images they sometimes portray or the racist ideas they inflict on our kids. We read book after book to them at a very early age without much thought.
What we’re unaware of, though, is that race comes up quite frequently in children’s books and can steer our kids’ deeper thoughts and feelings in negative or positive…