In a recent article in Parents’ Magazine, Carolyn Hoyt describes the results of a study in which researchers evaluate the racial preferences of young children. “The result: 35% of 3-year-olds preferred their own race. "There was a tendency for white kids to choose white kids for good things, black kids for bad things," says Dr. Katz. "Similarly, black 3-year-olds associated the black children in the photos with positive qualities, the white kids with the negative."
This outcome is to be expected since most preschoolers spend most of their time with family - their mothers in particular - when they’re quite young. A preference for people who look like your mom isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, the article goes on:
“This trend among black children changes as they get older. By 5, many associate positive qualities with whites...” and because of the way these studies are structured, it’s not a far leap to assume that the black children who participated are also associating negative qualities with being black.
This. Breaks. My. Heart.
I’m white, and I associate many positive things with being white, but I want all kids to grow up being proud of who they are and develop a positive self-image. The fact that black children are internalizing negative associations with blackness at such a young age is alarming and reason enough to cause us all to pause and reflect.
How are these messages being internalized? Where are they coming from? How can we combat this negative self-image from developing in children so young? What can we do to prevent negative biases from creeping into the subconscious of our most innocent minds?
If black kids are being led to believe that they aren’t “good” then the white kids are also very likely absorbing the subconscious message that black people aren’t good.
MAR News is going to explore this phenomenon over the course of the next year. Yes. Year. Because that’s how big this problem is.
What to expect this month?
Since subconscious bias is developed over time, awareness of how it creeps into our homes is an essential component for combating the damage it can cause. This quarter, we are focusing our attention on the ways this happens and what we can do about it.
First, Britta Livengood will be sharing an insightful article about the stereotypes that make their way into the media we consume without us even realizing it. It's madness (get it? March Madness? It'll make more sense when you read the article).
Then, Megan Wetzel, Global Director of Kids programming, will be kicking off Read-Across-America week by offering a list great book suggestions you can incorporate into your bookshelves to provide the mirrors, windows, and sliding doors our young ones need to appreciate the diversity around them. She'll be wrapping up the week with an article about the importance of diversifying your bookshelves. If you want to get a head start, you can head over to our bookstore and start shopping.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, MAR is sharing stories and quotes by inspiring women, our book club is discussing a new book about the moms who raised leaders of the civil rights movement (book club meets virtually on March 11 at 9:00 PM EST), and don't forget that our bookstore also carries books for adults.
March is also Mental Health Awareness Month, and positive self image is important, so we are hosting an art contest for kids ages 3-8 (follow us on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter for more information). The art contest is designed to get your kids to reflect on what “A Hero Is…” and the characteristics that are heroic. We hope that between the diverse reading selections and other activities, your kids will be able to see some of the many heroic characteristics they possess.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our vlog posts for Motivation Mondays. We’ll also be posting some additional content about the importance of mental health awareness in our weekly newsletters (be sure you’ve signed up to receive them), and we'll be using the month to give you ideas to build your awareness of bias and ways to help your kids develop a positive self-image.
Future First Education (launched in February as a division of MAR) will be hosting their first workshop on classroom management strategies to encourage inclusion. Help us spread the word and share this workshop information with a teacher in your life. Speaking of teachers, our teacher spotlight series is a great way to showcase what you love in your kids’ classrooms. This month, FFE is honoring Anjalee Beverly. Head over to their page and check out all the great things they’re doing to encourage diversity and inclusion in the school system.
On March 18 at 4:00 PM EST, MAR Talks will be chatting with Author and Poet Zetta Elliot about her recent book, Say Her Name. It's bound to be inspiring and meaningful, so we hope you'll attend this virtual event.
Finally, Natasha McNeil will be moderating our conversation "Anti-Racism at Home" on March 31, at 7:00 PM EST. If you're not already a member of our online group, check our events page for more information.