Race, Nationality, & Fertility: The Transnational Value of Whiteness

Surrogacy (the act of a woman carrying a fetus to term for another person) has been a controversial topic for many years now. From a critical race perspective, Dorothy Roberts and others have pointed out how surrogacy and other fertility techniques have been used by mostly wealthy whites to produce blond, blue-eyed white babies while employing black, brown, or yellow women to take the time and effort to have them.

Indeed, surrogacy has gotten so expensive in the U.S. (and elsewhere) that many Americans have sought out surrogates in India, creating “baby factories” and “surrogacy tourists.” Roberts notes how nonwhite surrogates can be used by single, wealthy white men to retain their wealth (as well as genetic) inheritance. Further, affluent women (regardless of race) can avoid the health dangers and inconveniences associated with pregnancy and childbirth, yet still have their own biological children.

In more recent years, however, the use of surrogacy to increase the “lily white” has expanded to affluent nonwhites employing white women. In China, for example, surrogacy is growing in popularity for the upper-class, due to a variety of factors including infertility, China’s one-child policy, and desire to obtain U.S. citizenship for both themselves and their children.

While many couples use their own eggs and sperm, a growing number are accepting egg donations for their surrogates. In fact, some seek tall, blond (i.e., white) donors to produce a Eurasian looking child, whom many clients claim to look smarter and more attractive. Meanwhile, a recent expose of a clinic in Ghana claims to produce “half-caste” babies in order to create a “half-caste world.” The founder of the clinic claims that Africa needs more biracial individuals, while claiming to provide his clients children with “mental and physical beauty.” Additionally, he purports that such biracial individuals would help to improve Africa’s future. Gametes from countries including the U.K. and U.S. are reportedly proffered for $3,000 USD.

While most people think helping people have children is a good thing, there are a number of tricky issues related to this phenomenon. While many of us may wish to ignore this issue and hope it goes away, surrogacy is on the rise in the world. Furthermore, the exploitation of poor women of color is on full display, using them as little more than incubators to produce offspring for mostly affluent white people. Why do some Chinese (as well as other Asians) prefer individuals who have fairer skin and “white” looking features? Why would Africans come to view the continent as too Black? The cases of wealthy Chinese, Ghanaian, or other nonwhites who seek “half-caste” children presents another issue: the effects of white supremacy exported abroad, producing symbolic violence.

My 3-Year-Old has Experienced Racism (and yours probably has too)

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But if there is a child of color in your life and if you ever read to them – then they have already experienced racism.


 (image [by artist Tina Kugler)

First let’s clear one thing up. When many people think racism, they think extreme. Overtly aggressive, easily-identifiable. Slavery, KKK, Jim Crow, Japanese internment, etc. To be sure, very racist. But these overt forms of racism are now widely condemned and far less common. They still happen no doubt, but nowhere near the level they used to. No. These days racism has gone stealth; often taking less obvious, insidious forms. Harder to find. Harder to fight? Nowadays we understand racism as a system of oppression that unfairly advantages some (whites) over others on the basis of phenotype (skin color). Take a look around you and it’s easy to see this system of privilege in place. Who lives in the poorest neighborhoods? Who lives in the richest? Whose children go to the lowest funded, most scantily equipped schools? Whose children go to the most expensive, richly resourced private schools?

When my son was born I enthusiastically set out to find children’s books that celebrated and reflected our family’s unique multiracial Asian heritage. I figured there were so many mixed kids now I’d find tons of stuff. If not about mixed Asian (which admittedly is very specific) at least about Asian, multiracial or multicultural. I found a handful of books and then? Myself beating my head against a brick wall. I was mystified, frustrated and then infuriated. What was going on? I suddenly got that sinking-yucky-PoC feeling, “Uh oh there’s something racial happening here.” Not sure what else to do I began blogging, researching and collecting resources on my own.

Then early this summer my fears were confirmed. About the same time data revealed that, for the first time, whites had fallen to a minority in America’s under-5 age group  a 2012 report from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison garnered quick internet and media attention.

The CCBC report found that despite our increasing diversity, the number of children’s books written by or about people of color is very low and has not changed in 18 years. Of the 3,600 books the CCBC received last year, only 3% were about African Americans, 2% were about Asian Pacific Americans, 1.5% were about Latinos, and less than 1% were about Native Americans and these numbers have stayed fairly consistent since the CCBC started keeping statistics in 1994.



(Image credit: Flickr/Global Partnership for Education)

Some argue there isn’t large enough demand for main characters of color while others argue there can’t be a demand for something that’s not on the market.

But boil it down and it very simply looks like this. There are still few minority owned publishing companies in the U.S. Publishing is disproportionately controlled by whites who continue to favor producing products by, for, and about their own race despite very real evidence that the market demands something more diverse. This then has the trickle down effect of impacting what’s available to you and your family at bookstores, libraries, schools, etc. Yes people. It’s systemic. It’s institutional. It’s covert. It’s about power and race. That’s racism. And your children of color are at a disadvantage because of it.

In one of the most influential works on anti-bias early education, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, Louise Derman-Sparks & Julie Olsen Edwards address the omission of diversity as a major dynamic of advantage and disadvantage in early learning materials. They reframe under- and over-representation as a form of societal (in)visibility that works to undermine some children’s sense of self at the same time it teaches other children that they are more deserving than others. They write:


“Young children are learning about who is and isn’t important. Invisibility erases identity and experience; visibility affirms reality. When children see themselves and their families reflected in their early childhood setting, they feel affirmed and that they belong. When children’s identities and families are invisible, the opposite happens. Children feel that they are unimportant and do not belong. These lessons from societal visibility or invisibility are among the most powerful messages children receive…Children absorb these messages every day, often without the adults in their lives even knowing what the children are learning” (pp.13-4).


And at the end of the day, as these authors point out, this is something that impacts everyone regardless of race. According to FirstBook, a nonprofit dedicated to overcoming illiteracy, literacy is one of the best predictors of a child’s future success but when children see characters and hear stories that aren’t relevant to their lives, it makes it harder to engage and interest them.

Low levels of literacy are associated with lower educational, employment and health outcomes, and that will ultimately cost the United States more than a quarter of a million dollars each.


(image from here)


Children’s books are also one of the most important launching pads for discussions about tough things (e.g. trying new foods, being scared of the dark, bullying, etc). If there aren’t many diverse children’s books then we can guess adults aren’t starting meaningful conversations on the subject at home, in school, etc.

Indeed in the popular 2011 Nurtureshock, authors Pro Bronson and Ashley Merryman verify 75% of white parents almost never talk to their kids about race  Let’s follow this through to its obvious conclusion. We’ve got silence from the critical adults in children’s lives. We’ve got covert societal messages about who is and is not important via (in)visibility. We’ve got our children, left to themselves, easily making misinformed generalizations about groups of people (and not telling us about it). And then we’ve got their fairly innocent pre-prejudices, left mostly unattended, growing with them into…bias. And voila! Racism is reborn.

The early years are critical in setting the stage for who we become and the things we learn as children are the hardest to unlearn. So this is also a critical point of intervention for addressing racial inequities in this country. How can we ever undo racism if its foundation continues to be solidly, firmly poured in place? It isn’t only about naïve children and cute children’s books. It’s about the fact that we still aren’t having the conversations and we aren’t having them early enough. If we truly want to make a difference, let’s head it off at the gate.

Find out who’s trying to make a change and how you can help. Here’s are a couple of places to start: FirstBook’s solution and Lee&Low Books and Cinco Puntos discussion of multilcultural publishing.



~ Guest blogger Sharon Chang maintains the blog MultiAsian Families.

Livestreaming Now: Whiteness & Health Roundtable Today at CUNY Graduate Center (Updated)

The archived video(s) of An Exploration of Whiteness and Health A Roundtable Discussion

is available beginning here (updated 12/16/12):

The examination of whiteness in the scholarly literature is well established (Fine et al., 1997; Frankenberg, 1993; Hughey, 2010; Twine and Gallagher, 2008). Whiteness, like other racial categories, is socially constructed and actively maintained through the social boundaries by, for example, defining who is white and is not white (Allen, 1994; Daniels, 1997; Roediger, 2007; Wray, 2006). The seeming invisibility of whiteness is one of its’ central mechanisms because it allows those within the category white to think of themselves as simply human, individual and without race, while Others are racialized (Dyer, 1998). We know that whiteness shapes housing (Low, 2009), education (Leonardo, 2009), politics (Feagin, 2012), law (Lopez, 2006), research methods (Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva, 2008) and indeed, frames much of our misapprehension of society (Feagin, 2010; Lipsitz, 1998). Still, we understand little of how whiteness and health are connected. Being socially assigned as white is associated with large and statistically significant advantages in health status (Jones et al., 2008). Anderson’s ground breaking book The Cultivation of Whiteness (2006) offers an exhaustive examination of the way whiteness was deployed as a scientific and medical category in Australia though to the second world war. Yet, there is relatively little beyond this that explores the myriad connections between whiteness and health (Daniels and Schulz, 2006; Daniels, 2012; Katz Rothman, 2001). References listed here.

The Whiteness & Health Roundtable is an afternoon conversation with scholars and activists doing work on this area.

Follow the livetweeting on Twitter at @jgieseking (Jen Jack Gieseking) and @SOSnowy (Collette Sosnowy), and via the #DigitalGC. You can also view the compilation of those Tweets on Storify here.

The roundtable is sponsored by the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) and the Critical Social & Environmental Psychology program at the Graduate Center CUNY. The event is hosted by Michelle Fine (Distinguished Professor, Social Psychology, Women’s Studies and Urban Education), Jessie Daniels (Professor, Urban Public Health and Sociology) and Rachel Liebert, (PhD Student, Critical Social/Personality Psychology).

Babies with Bias?

Sundays are for relaxing and avoiding any real critical thinking beyond which outdated sweatpants to wear, right? I would normally agree, but a 60 Minutes episode airing on CBS on November 18, 2012, one of the last remaining venues of real journalism within the U.S. market broke the silence in my mind. A piece entitled, Born Good? Babies Help Unlock the Origins of Morality, evoked my lazy carb induced Sunday evening mind to contemplate. Leslie Stahl sought to answer the questions if we as humans are born to be good or bad? Do we start out in life with a sense of morality, selfish, and or oppressive? Or as many have over time believed, such as B.F. Skinner simply blank slates which are in need of guidance from society to fill the voids?

Scholars from Yale University’s Infant Cognition Lab (“the baby lab”) were interviewed to answer these questions. Researchers such as Karen Wynn, Director of the Infant Cognition Lab that is within the psychology department, used babies as young as three to five months old to prove babies have a predilection for persons who exhibit nice behaviors and a disdain for those who illustrate antisocial behaviors. Their findings were first published within nature (2007) within an article entitled, “Social Evaluation by Preverbal Infants.” In addition, they have also gone on within subsequent years to show babies have an elementary understanding of justice. Paul Bloom, also a professor of psychology at Yale, has noted babies are “creatures of sophistication and subtle knowledge.” Within the 60 Minute interviews he stated

there is a universal moral core that all humans share. The seeds of our understanding of right and wrong are part of our biological nature.

In terms of what some may call “evil,” the findings from the lab have pointed to evidence which proves that babies are born with a sense of bias and preference for individuals who have similar traits and characteristics that they as babies possess. Simply, babies are predisposed to divide and categorize the world up into groups. But the research that proved babies prefer individuals who harm others unlike them was the point within the televised show which pushed me to sit up and take real notice. If one believes in the findings, on one hand we are essentially we are genetically wired to know and value justice and equity, but on the other we have a calling to protect our own through the means of dividing and conquering.

Even though people such as Dr. James Anderson have argued that the term race and acts of racism did not emerge until the 18th century, Bloom noted that “evolution” dedicates at least the need for humans to categorize individuals and thus be weary of those unlike them was necessary in order to survive. This he feels is the key to understanding how to exterminate racism and bigotry that is acted upon throughout the world. Moreover, the call for society and positive nurture is needed to combat these biological callings. This was shown in the 60 Minutes piece to be true as researchers worked with older children (9 to 10 years of age) and proved categorized evil traits of humanity could be tempered due to education and positive inculcation. Even though the Wynn and Bloom’s research initially argues that babies and young children are genetically predisposed, on an elementary basis, to prefer others like them, while at the same time punishing others unlike them, the researchers also illustrated that the feelings that drive these actions can be corrected to a large degree with positive societal and family guidance.

What are the true sociological implications? I feel that attention and research is needed to the possible linkages of “evolution” and public policies. A better picture as to why historical and contemporary policies that oppressed and or harmed specific marginalized populations throughout the world can thusly be created. The implications of said research can also explain why racial persecution continues today within the 21st century. In addition, scholars within the field would be able to add another layer of explanation as to the motivation for the precursors to said policies.

Next, by investigating the nurturing aspect of specific people and or groups responsible for the oppression of others could lead to a better understanding into the actions of man. Moreover, by applying the findings of Yale’s baby lab, researchers are able to explain the differences in our social, economic, and educational realms. Most importantly, I feel it also sways a large degree of responsibility back, not only onto the self in regard of self-control and rectification, but also onto those within our individual environments.

I know history is full of examples of man’s innate sense, and consequential actions to protect and favor those like themselves while oppressing other. But this still gives me some sense of hope. Some…

Parents Know: It’s Time We All Listen

Parents know what their children need, especially when it comes to their education. And it’s about time that we start listening to them. In the nation’s rush to blame everyone, including the parents, for children’s, especially minority children’s, educational failure, we have stopped listening to the people who know the most about their own, and their community’s children. The parents. And instead of listening to these parents, these mothers, we listen to everyone else. Everyone else gets a say in what is right or wrong, but mostly wrong, with the schools – movie directors, politicians, educational policy experts, and academics (myself included). And most of these people do not have children in the public schools (again, myself included), particularly the low income public schools that bear the brunt of most criticism.

And it’s not as if these parents are not demanding to be heard. It’s just that the United States is used to ignoring them. Historically, low income minority women have been the most marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised, suffering from what Patricia Hill Collins calls a triple threat of disadvantage. For those parents who might not speak English fluently or speak it as their first language, this is only all the more true. However, it’s not as if these groups do not advocate on behalf of their children. They do. It’s just these groups are often intentionally ignored, or silenced, because to listen to them would call attention to the tremendous injustices that not only they, but their children, the most vulnerable of our American citizens, suffer.

Stigmatized as being on welfare, sexually promiscuous, or involved with illegal drugs, low income minority mothers are often seen as social pariahs. But the stores of knowledge they hold, both with regard to their own cultures and histories, as well as the oppositional consciousnesses documenting the explicit injustices to which their children are subject are profound. And they must be heard. We, as the American public, must listen as they rally nationally – in Bridgeport, Connecticut, New York City, Paterson, N.J., Baltimore, Dallas, Texas, Sacramento, Chicago, and St. Augustine, Florida. In these cities, and so many others, they rally.

Demanding that school boards address the existence of toxic substances in their schools, increased parental involvement, that schools in their neighborhoods not be closed, overcrowding , privatization of school employees, cuts to education funding, physically abusive teachers, and fewer tests, these parents clearly know what the specific problems in the schools are.

They do not need educational experts, politicians, or others who have never stepped inside their neighborhood (unless to campaign), much less their schools, to tell them what is keeping minority test scores low. They know. And it’s time the rest of the country listen. This July, parents, as well as teachers and other supporters, from around the nation will convene in Washington, D.C., to reclaim their rightful control over their children’s futures. I hope we listen.

Universal Racial Justice: Priority #1

In response to a recent New York Times article entitled “Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above”, which suggests mixed race teens are “beginning to reject the “one-drop rule” and embrace their multiple racial heritages,” Tuesday, John McWhorter, conservative author of Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, wrote an article in The Root entitled “Let’s Stop Being Angry at Biracial People.” In typical McWhorter fashion, the author was very critical of Blacks arguing they are “adopting the racial-classification strategies of Strom Thurmond” and other white supremacist by encouraging biracials to identify as Black. McWhorter’s argument could not be further from the truth. Black animosity toward multiracials does not stem from internalizing white racist classification schemes. Blacks’ hostility toward multiracialism stems from biracials privileging their personal identities over the universal struggle of people of color against white supremacy. Supporting this claim, Natalie, a respondent in my current project looking at the multiracial movement, suggests:

They [the multiracial movement] need to become more aware of the politics of race in the United States rooted in equality concerns not cultural identity concerns. Cultural identity is fluid and highly personal, but racial justice is a need for the collective to embrace with an understanding of how nonwhites are viewed.

Natalie, as well as sociologists Rainier Spencerand Jared Sexton, suggests, the problems between biracials and Blacks are rooted in biracials placing a higher priority on personal identity recognition than on universal racial justice. McWhorter’s argument is based on a false assumption and only serves to frame Blacks as racist and pathological–as much of his work does. Arguing Blacks are the party championing racism, it is McWhorter who has embraced the colorblind lie and denial of the systemic nature of race in America.

In McWhorter’s argument, Black anger toward the multiracial project stems not just from accepting the white racist classification system, but also from deep feelings of self-hate. According to McWhorter:

That anger comes from insult — specifically, a sense that Troy must think he’s better than they are. After all, why couldn’t they just allow that Troy has had a different life from theirs? Or, more simply, open up to the obvious fact that some people are genetically (and culturally) more black than others? Those would be perfectly natural responses. Thinking that Troy looks down on you is just one alternative. And that alternative can feel natural only to someone who deep down does feel that being black is somehow lowly. [Emphasis added]

This excerpt reveals McWhorter’s assumptions about Blacks. In this statement it is clear McWhorter believes Blacks feel themselves to be a “lowly” and inferior race and thus perceive expressions of multiraciality to be offensive. However, as evidenced in their rich counter-frames, Blacks have historically maintained a positive self-image despite whites’ assault on their personhood.

It is whites who view blackness as a lowly status, not Blacks. The historical record shows McWhorter’s assumption of Black self-loathing to be clearly incorrect. After this assumption is shown to be false, McWhorter’s argument collapses. Once it is shown Blacks love themselves, McWhorter doesn’t have an argument because Black self-hate is the core of why he believes Blacks oppose multiracialism.. Therefore, biracials being encouraged to identify as Black is not an act of anger for “looking down on Blackness” or “letting racism win.” The frustration Blacks feel toward the multiracial project is a result of Blacks commitment to racial justice, not self-hate or internalizing racist classification schemes as McWhorter suggests.

New Education Report: High Levels of Racial Inequality, Again

The National Center for Education Statistics has just released a very interesting and revealing 2010 statistical report– Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups–on children and parents, with a main emphasis on educational issues. Here are just a few of their findings:
Little Rock Nine
Creative Commons License photo credit: Steve Snodgrass

The percentages of children who were living in poverty were higher for Blacks (34 percent), American Indians/Alaska Natives (33 percent), Hispanics (27 percent), and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (26 percent), than for children of two or more races (18 percent), Asians (11 percent) and Whites (10 percent).

Forty-eight percent of public school 4th-graders were eligible for free or reduced- price lunches in 2009, including 77 percent of Hispanic, 74 percent of Black, 68 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native, 34 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander, and 29 percent of White 4th-graders.

These revealing data show extreme poverty levels for major groups of color, with very high levels qualifying for reduced-price or free lunches. Among other things the data demonstrate huge problems of structural inequality and racism that seem to be off the white-controlled policy agenda for the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

In 2008, some 44 percent of White 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in colleges and universities, while in 1980 some 28 percent were enrolled. In addition, approximately 32 percent of Black 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in colleges or universities (an increase of 12 percentage points from 1980) and 26 percent of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled (an increase of 10 percentage points from 1980).

Inequality and structural racism at lower grades contribute substantially to inequalities up the line at college. Here, again, very substantial differentials. Some other data also tell us something significant about current immigration and demographic patterns:

In 2008, a higher percentage of Asian children (51 percent) had a mother with at least a bachelor’s degree than did White children (36 percent), children of two or more races (31 percent), Black children (17 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native children (16 percent), and Hispanic children (11 percent).

The Asian children are more likely to be the children of documented immigrants, who have come in under a biased U.S. immigration system that increasingly tends to “cream off” the world’s middle and upper middle classes. Thus, many documented immigrants come in with college degrees and some social or economic capital that facilitates socioeconomic their and their children’s mobility in the U.S. Other children of color are no so fortunate, including those who are the children of undocumented Latino immigrants. Other data are also revealing:

In 2007, a higher percentage of White (18 percent) children ages 12 to 17 reported drinking alcohol in the past month than did their Hispanic (15 percent) peers, peers of two or more races (13 percent), and Black (10 percent) and Asian (8 percent) peers.

I wonder why we do not have white leaders and politicians talking a lot about the “white problem” of drug (alcohol) use among white youth in the U.S.

And like other studies they also show the trend toward an more diverse society where whites are gradually becoming a statistical minority, especially among children:

Between 1980 and 2008, the racial/ethnic composition of the United States shifted— the White population declined from 80 percent of the total population to 66 percent; the Hispanic population increased from 6 percent of the total to 15 percent; the Black population remained at about 12 percent; and the Asian/Pacific Islander population increased from less than 2 percent of the total population to 4 percent. In 2008, American Indians/Alaska Natives made up about 1 percent and people of two or more races made up about 1 percent of the population.

And these demographic changes continue at a fast pace today.

Racism and the Stroke of a Brush–Arizona Again

A farcical show of racism took place recently in Prescott, an Arizona city of 34,000, located 120 miles north of Phoenix. The cause was the opposition by some local citizens to a public mural located at an elementary school. The mural’s purpose was to advertise a “green transportation campaign.” Likenesses of four elementary school children of various races were part of the display.

The presence of nonwhite children in the mural bothered some of the local white citizens. Regarding the painted wall, one of the mural artists, reported that as the artists and some children worked on the project they were heckled. “We had children painting with us, and here come these yells of (epithet for Blacks) and (epithet for Hispanics).”

Wall reported that subsequently school principal Jeff Lane asked him to make the children’s faces appear “happier and brighter.”

“It is being lightened because of the controversy,” Wall said. He added that, “they want it to look like the children are coming into light.”

It would appear that ‘brighter’ and ‘coming into light’ mean ‘whiter.’ Yet Lane denied any political pressure, asserting the changes were made “from an artistic view. nothing to do with race.”

It is important to note that the mural was funded by a state grant. Furthermore, Wall reported that thousands of town residents volunteered or donated to the project.

Nevertheless the ‘mural battle’ is a stark reminder that racism still is alive, even if sometimes it comes as tragicomedy.

England’s Smartest Family is Black

Rollingout.com has a nice personal interest story, with a very important point. The story is about the Imafidon family, a black-British family, and its very-very-high-achieving children. First there are the two nine-year-old twins, Peter and Paula, who are the youngest to

ever pass the University of Cambridge’s advanced mathematics exam. That’s on top of the fact they have set world records when they passed the A/AS-level math papers.

Nine years old! But these two children are not alone, because their sister Anne-Marie

holds the world record as the youngest girl to pass the A-level computing, when she was just 13. She is now studying at . . . Johns Hopkins University …. Sister Christina, 17, is the youngest student to ever get accepted and study at an undergraduate institution at any British university at the tender age of 11. And Samantha, now age 12, had passed two rigorous high school-level mathematics and statistics exams at the age of 6…

The father immigrated to London from Nigeria three decades back, and he makes a key point about why these working class children have done well in England:

….. he denies there is some “genius gene” in his family. Instead, he credits his children’s success to the Excellence in Education program for disadvantaged inner-city children. “Every child is a genius,” he told British reporters. “Once you identify the talent of a child and put them in the environment that will nurture that talent, then the sky is the limit. Look at Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters … they were nurtured.”

Doubtless, he is underplaying parental efforts here, but still his point is dramatic.

So, of course, in the U.S. we starve and re-Jim-Crow our inner-city educational programs for decades, then when the Bush Depression kicks in, our governments’ solutions include giving a trillion dollars in aid to Wall Street’s white-collar, low-intelligence deviants, but cutting back on many local educational and other social support programs that develop young talent in areas where we need it.

Perhaps we need to send our (mostly white) politicians to study with this savvy father and his very talented kids. Maybe they can get their “low IQs” up a little?

Revisiting the Kenneth Clark Study: White Racist Children, a Surprise?

CNN has had a University of Chicago professor, Margaret Beale Spencer, to test 133 black and white children (in two groups, one 4-5 and one 9-10 years old) in eight schools in New York City and Georgia, to see their preferences for white and black skin, a sort of contemporary testing of issues that psychologist Ken Clark raised many years ago – and that were used in the famous footnote to the Brown decision. The CNN website gives this summary:

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. 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.

Spencer adds this point:

“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.”

Well, whites invented and maintained the system of racial oppression, and its rationalizing white racial frame, with many anti-black and anti-other stereotypes–and lots of pro-white stereotypes as well. So, the white children get a much better “education” in racist stereotyping 101. And the Black children are having to fight back against this white racist framing of both virtuous whiteness and negative stuff about their own group. And of course black parents and children have to reframe this racist stuff. There is a strong, 380-year-old black counter frame against the white racial frame, in much of black America. Apparently, psychologists do not think much in historical and structural terms, or read research on systemic racism and the old white racial frame.
Then there is this comment in the CNN article:

Spencer was also surprised that children’s ideas about race, for the most part, don’t evolve as they get older. The study showed that children’s ideas about race change little from age 5 to age 10.

Again, there is some good sociological literature over the last decade that shows just how early white children learn the white racial frame of African Americans and other Americans of color – which CNN and these psychologists might well have consulted too.