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CNN Experiment Shows Black and White Children Have Bias Toward Light Skin… Duh

CNN Experiment Shows Black and White Children Have Bias Toward Light Skin… Duh

Nearly 60 years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling segregated US schools and more than a year after the election of the country’s first black president, white children have an overwhelming white bias, and black children also have a bias toward white, according to a new study commissioned by CNN.  I’m shocked!  Next thing you know, someone will discover that fat meat is greasy.

First of all (black people love to say that), why is CNN commissioning this study?  Am I the only one that finds this odd?  I need answers Soledad.  But, I digress.

A white child looks at a picture of a black child and says she’s bad because she’s black. A black child says a white child is ugly because he’s white. A white child says a black child is dumb because she has dark skin. No shit, we needed a whole study to figure that out?

Renowned child psychologist and University of Chicago professor Margaret Beale Spencer, a leading researcher in the field of child development, led the study. She designed the pilot study and led a team of three psychologists: two testers to execute the study and a statistician to help analyze the results.

According to CNN, her team tested 133 children from schools that met very specific economic and demographic requirements. In total, eight schools participated: four in the greater New York City area and four in Georgia.

Spencer’s test aimed to re-create the landmark Doll Test from the 1940s. Those tests, conducted by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark, were designed to measure how segregation affected African-American children.

The Clarks asked black children to choose between a white doll and — because at the time, no brown dolls were available — a white doll painted brown. They asked black children a series of questions and found they overwhelmingly preferred white over brown. The study and its conclusions were used in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, which led to the desegregation of American schools—which btw, was fucking brilliant.

In the new study, which is friggin boring , Spencer’s researchers asked the younger children a series of questions and had them answer by pointing to one of five cartoon pictures that varied in skin color from light to dark. The older children were asked the same questions using the same cartoon pictures, and were then asked a series of questions about a color bar chart that showed light to dark skin tones. (yawn)

The tests showed that white children, as a whole, responded with a high rate of what researchers call “white bias,” identifying the color of their own skin with positive attributes and darker skin with negative attributes. Spencer said even black children, as a whole, have some bias toward whiteness, but far less than white children.  Another shocker.

“All kids on the one hand are exposed to the stereotypes” she said. “What’s really significant here is that white children are learning or maintaining those stereotypes much more strongly than the African-American children. Therefore, the white youngsters are even more stereotypic in their responses concerning attitudes, beliefs and attitudes and preferences than the African-American children.”

Spencer says this may be happening because “parents of color in particular had the extra burden of helping to function as an interpretative wedge for their children. Parents have to reframe what children experience … and the fact that white children and families don’t have to engage in that level of parenting, I think, does suggest a level of entitlement. You can spend more time on spelling, math and reading, because you don’t have that extra task of basically reframing messages that children get from society.”


OK, I’m no scientist, but isn’t the more likely reason black kids have a less bias toward whiteness because African-American children are simply exposed to a broader array of African-Americans whereas many white children’s only exposure to black people is through the media?

As an African-American woman, I know how diverse and dynamic other black folks are because I live the experience every day.  Why is it so shocking that white kids embrace more stereotypes?  We often stereotype what we don’t understand.    I had stereotypes about the Middle East until I traveled there.  We are all guilty of stereotyping other cultures, regions, religions etc.  If a white child’s only exposure to black people is popular culture, then we can’t be surprised when they believe we are all dumb thugs, hookers, rappers, ball players and criminals. White children being more “stereotypic in their responses” seems to be a direct product of their environmental influences.

Also, I’m not sure where she’s going with this, but her implication that white parents are able to spend more time teaching spelling and math because black parents are focused on having black power meetings in the basement with their children is a little looney.  On the bright side, now we can say our kids don’t do well in school because black parents are too busy teaching how-to-be-black-in-america classes, to deal with silly spelling and math stuff.

And as for the issue of white entitlement, as little black kids growing up we were told that we had to be twice as good to be considered equal to our white peers.  White kids’ parents don’t have to tell them that.  White entitlement exists. Duh.  Study over.  Can someone go work on prostate cancer or Parkinson’s Disease now?

As our society becomes more diverse and children are exposed to other cultures in the classroom and workplace more often, tests like these will become less and less relevant.

Instead of focusing on this notion of “white entitlement” and making white kids less “racist” perhaps this should be a wake-up call for the African-Americans to look at the images we present of ourselves through the mainstream media and the type of portrayals of ourselves that we support.  We must remember we are in global society and the images we present of ourselves are sometimes the only exposure other cultures have to us.  I think working on this aspect of our culture is far more important than making white kids like black kids more.  Perhaps, if the only black people they saw weren’t Ray-J, Lil Wayne,  Medea, or the fool on the 6 o’ clock news, we could get somewhere.

CNN reports that Spencer said the study points to major trends but is not the definitive word on children and race. It does lead her to conclude that even in 2010, “we are still living in a society where dark things are devalued and white things are valued.”  No shit Sherlock.

You know what, I’m going to call CNN right now and ask if they’ll pay me to do a study to see if the lack of fathers in the home has affected the black community.  Just watch, the results will be explosive!




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