Community Village Activist: Teaching Children To Respect One Another

by , under All categories, Enrique

Comment: This story and video clip published by CNN and posted by Glenn Robinson, editor of the Community Village Activist blog, is high revealing and shows where and when the bud of racism should be nipped. 

If a child grows up in a society where 99.9% of his or her classmates, best friends and neighbors are white it must reinforce some negative perceptions of those who are different from her. If a child grew up at a school and neighborhood where people were pretty much equal and came from different ethnic backgrounds, would the little girl’s answers be different in the video clip?

But let’s add another matter to the story. What about if on top of the latter we’d teach informally and formally at the near-all-white school stereotypes of “others.”  Below is a children’s book used at Finnish schools still in the 1970s. What kind of perceptions did this seemingly “innocent” picture evoke about blacks?

The negro washes his face but grows no paler. 

What would you say if a black girl was asked to choose which of the two dolls, a black or white one, was prettier. What about if she responded that the white one was more appealing? What does her answer reveal about her perceptions of beauty, racism never mind self-esteem?

No matter how you look at it, racism and prejudice are pretty devastating for society and the individual since it does not permit neither of the two to realize their full potential.  


Has anyone seen research where the researcher asks children, instead of a closed ended question like “Who is the smart one” but instead “Are all phenotypes equally nice and equally smart?” (Children may not know what a phenotype is but that creates a good opportunity to explain that a phenotype is only skin deep). Children can then be asked to explain their answer and where they learned their knowledge or stereotypes. Maybe they learned it from TV, radio, friends, students, family or even their parents.

Read whole story.

Thank you Glenn Robinson for the heads up!

  1. Mark


    – “What would you say if a black girl was asked to choose which of the two dolls, a black or white one, was prettier. What about if she responded that the white one was more appealing? What does her answer reveal about her perceptions of beauty, racism never mind self-esteem?”

    Yes? What would they reveal? 🙂

    • Enrique

      –Yes? What would they reveal?

      A very good question, Mark. If we lived in a very segregated and racist society like that of the United States before the Civil Rights Movement, it could suggest one thing. But then there is another question: If we live in a culturally diverse society where we must accept each other, isn’t it perfectly ok for different kids to play with different colored dolls?

      What I am interested in sociologically is how perceptions and values of what we consider acceptable and beauty in society affect the child’s choice.

      How does self-esteem and the feeling of empowerment suffer if you are a minority (or majority controlled by a more power minority) being constantly reminded by television, the media and books that you’re not as popular and powerful as the other ethnic group? How does that influence where you think you should fit on the totem pole?

      Here is an interesting story on the matter by ABC News.

  2. justicedemon

    “The negro washes his face but grows no paler” is how I would translate that expression. Certainly an odd example to choose when learning the alphabet, and the implication that the aim of washing is to change the colour of one’s skin is likewise not the pinnacle of pedagogical perspicuity.

    As the poet observed:

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

  3. Asian (Realy I am Chinese so I know my own reality)

    This is not news enymore. People of color know that they are stuck at their race and there is something wrong to be colored people at white society.

    What black child would say when she/he must show whict doll is pretty or nice or good or beautiful from black and white doll. White doll is pretty and black doll is ugly.

  4. justicedemon


    That’s an excellent essay.

    Even the highly educated often fail to internalise and compensate for the way in which cultural expectations condition perception.

    We are all aware of certain types of optical and auditory illusion, and it is commonplace to point out examples where we see or hear what we want to see and hear, even when other, more tangible evidence contradicts our experience.

    The perception of visual or auditory beauty is no different from this. It is conditioned by our cultural expectations. Sometimes we have to broaden our cultural horizon in order to appreciate new forms of beauty. Extreme and pathological resistance to this process of broadening our cultural horizon is what we call fascism.

  5. Foreigner

    Asian…..I am from a black country, and without a doubt, if shown a black and white doll, and asked which is prettier, more than 90% of the children in my country would choose the black doll. That is because black people in my part of the world have really high self esteem. We honestly are proud of our blackness! We do not see ourselves as “being stuck” with our blackness!

    That high self esteem shows where ever we go!

    I remember some years ago, a study was done in a developed nation, on the high self esteem of black students(in white schools) from my part of the world. Apparently the whites in that developed country were rather perplexed to find black children with such a high sense of self.

    My high self esteem baffles even fellow blacks here in Finland. I am not conceited ;I was just raised to believe that we are just as good/pretty/intelligent as the white race. Raised to know that I should not accept any BS from any racist fool, because I am just as good as any race out there!!!

    • Enrique

      Hi Foreigner, I saw another video about an anti-racism campaign in Mexico, where they ask the child to choose between a white and darker doll. Guess which one most of the children chose.

      I agree with you: They key is self-esteem. If it isn’t shot to pieces by television and another group, people can be proud of their background. Good for you!

      Think about the damage we create on the person as well as on society when we destroy a group’s self-esteem through racism and exclusion.

  6. Foreigner

    Well, Enrique, I am not at all surprised about the Mexican children choosing the white doll as the epitome as beauty. South America is plagued with such behaviour, particularly in Brazil , where the situation is quite alarming.

    Here in Finland, I have met black and brown people who have no sense of self, and who are quick to do anything to be closer (aesthetically) to the white race. I was alarmed to see skin whitening products on sale at ethnic shops here. The product is used by both blacks and other coloured people (Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians). I was truly shocked, as I had never seen such a product sold in shops back home. We are too damned proud to even consider using such products! One would be ridiculed back home for using such a product!

    II truly believe that in the face of racism,it is important to never loose focus of who you are, and be proud of it.

    • Enrique

      Foreigner, could you tell me were these stores are that sell these types of products? I wouldn’t mind doing some investigative journalism on this topic.

  7. justicedemon


    A great deal has already been written on the popularity of tanning salons and spray-on tanning products. You should try to explain how these essentially differ from skin lightening products, insofar as both product types seem to aim at much the same end-result.

  8. Foreigner

    Maybe the 2 products are the same in that they are both used to alter the pigmentation of the skin. Where they differ is in the notion behind the use; black and brown people use the product to appear more like another race.As far as I know, whites do not tan their skin to look like any other race!

  9. justicedemon


    That interpretation begs the question. We would have to ask users of these products why they use them. If the principal motivation is as you suggest, then we would expect this to be an important element in advertising and marketing. A quick survey of online sources does not immediately show this.

  10. eyeopener


    Shall we check all teaching materials in Finland to discover the ignorance and discriminatory examples towards all people !! Even today??

    Shall we examine all teacher-education programmes on this issue??

    Why?? Because examples in books are already bad. But role-models of teachering staff are even worse. Never saw a teacher-education program to point at that issue. In my profession you would call this “taking-for-granted”. And we wonder why 27% and more (under the whites shirts) thinks and acts the same way as the role-models do!!

    Foreigner. To mentally hug you: You are absolutely right of being proud of what you are!! Keep it that way. But: also realize -probably i don’t need to tell you this- be aware of the opposite.

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