October 10, 2008

Kids know bias when they see it

From our "out of the mouths of babes" department: Children know something's wrong when only white men become president.

Children aware of voter prejudice in US:  StudyChildren are aware white males have monopolized the US presidency, and most attribute the trend to racial prejudice, according to a study published yesterday.

Calling into question the idea children live in a color- and gender-blind world, researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, reveal “most elementary-school-aged children are aware there has been no female, African-American, or Hispanic President.”

In addition, “many of the children attribute the lack of representation to discrimination,” said Rebecca Bigler, professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, and lead author of the study, published in the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy.
And:The study asked the children, from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, about their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about the US presidency, and specifically about similarities between presidents and the absence of female, African-American and Hispanic presidents.

A third of the children said the white male monopoly was due to “racial and gender bias,” and another third believed members of the excluded groups “lacked the skills to hold the position,” according to the study.

One in four participants told researchers they thought it was “illegal for women and minorities to hold the office of president.”
Comment:  Wow. The reasons for the children's beliefs are kind of scary. "Lacked the skills"? "Illegal"?!

This study doesn't try to explain where children get these notions from. But the article gives us a hint: Children "appear to create their own explanations for the exclusion."

Right. They see a bunch of semi-competent white men as president. Since they see fully competent women and minorities everywhere (on TV, etc.), they can't believe their eyes. So they make up stories to explain the anomaly.

Same with Indians

Something similar happens with Indians. Children see stereotypical Indians in movies and on TV, on product labels and sports logos, etc. They don't see modern Indians in roles such as actor, politician, or astronaut. When a well-known Indian such as Tonto or Jacob Black appears, he's played by Johnny Depp or Taylor Lautner, which only reinforces the impression.

So kids come up with pseudo-explanations for the lack of modern Indians. They all looked like Plains Indians. They all live on reservations. They're all drunk or lazy. They're all gone.

In other words, it's impossible for an Indian to look or act like or be the president. Why? Because the media told us so. The evidence of our eyes suggests that Indians can't be anything but Plains chiefs and warriors.

For more on the subject, see No Natives for President?

Below:  Which one looks like he doesn't belong?

No comments: