Study Challenges How We Teach Kids (Not) to Talk About Race

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on August 28, 2015 · 1 comment

in Management

Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Guest blogger: Nicole Taylor, Continuum

Is racial color-blindness an ideology we should be instilling in kids—especially children of color?

A new study by the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Evan P. Apfelbaum and colleagues argues that race is not only an active factor in societal outcomes, but can be an important source of a child’s identity and psychological well-being. “Ignoring race, then, may well have a negative impact on those for whom it’s most salient,” notes an article about the study in New York Magazine.

The study, published this month in Social Psychology and Personality Science, sampled attitudes toward discussing race among a group of preteens from urban public elementary schools. It found that a majority of the children, regardless of their own skin color, believed that pointing out differences in race is taboo, even if mentioned in a neutral or positive context, and that “such avoidance exacted a cost to performance and nonverbal comfort.” The study builds on 2008 research by Apfelbaum and his coauthors, Kristin Pauker of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Brian Spitzer of New York University, that found this attitude less prevalent in younger children.

“There’s no easy way to solve the country’s vexing, centuries-old problems with race,” concludes the New York article, “but research like this highlights the serious problems and side effects that arise when you try to just sweep the problem under the rug.”

Apfelbaum is the W. Maurice Young (1961) Career Development Professor and an assistant professor of organizational studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Learn more from MIT News about his research isolating the effects of homogeneity and diversity.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alan Friot August 29, 2015 at 10:02 am

The following is a quick summary of some things I have written about years ago.
These are some the basic truths that I believe should be taught to everyone. The answer to ‘what are you’ is “a human being” all other terms are divisive. The most obvious one are the terms man and woman. These terms create a them and us perspective which can allow ‘us’ to treat ‘them’ differently. The basic rules for the treatment of all human beings is to always treat them as that which they are human beings. Thus we give them the intelligence and information and they with the most powerful thing on earth (the human brain) will then decide what they will do. We never try to control or manipulate another human being.


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