Tonight’s episode of Anderson Cooper 360° continued its series “Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture” which will present the results of the study commissioned by the program trying to understand how children view race and race relations. The program will also try to answer the question of whether we judge people based on their race. The question takes on additional urgency in light of the recent shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin.
Many of the questions surrounding the case center on what George Zimmerman was thinking in those few minutes between first laying eyes on Martin and killing him. Was race a factor, and if so, how?
The study results show that children begin to use race in forming opinions on other people around the age of 6. Although children are not born with inherent racial bias, they will start to pick up the bias expressed not only by their parents, but by adults and children in their surroundings at a very early age.
Our expert, Dr. Melanie Killen, details another dynamic at play with families of both races that has a profound affect on kids’ racial attitudes: the specter of interracial dating. Killen says parents, “start getting more nervous about (interracial dating) and they start thinking well you should be friends with people like you or like us”.
The children’s views on interracial friendships was greatly influenced by the racial makeup of their schools. Both white and minority children were much more optimistic about the possibility of such friendships than students who attended majority single-race schools.
As part of the investigation into how people of different races view each other, Soledad O’Brian also interviewed a 6-year-old African-American boy, whose replies to the survey questioning kids’ views on race were found by the researchers to be extremely negative and pessimistic.
When asked why the races couldn’t be friends, he repeatedly answered “because my Mom wouldn’t want me to have a different colored friend.” Soledad sits down with his parents to get their reaction.