Blind to Race and the Experience of Others: The Problem with Teaching Colorblindness

Children are perceptive and can easily see, just as adults do, race. When children are taught the idea of ‘colorblindness’ they are taught to ignore this very obvious observation. While well-intentioned parents and educators may believe that ignoring racial differences will allow children to be in harmony with many different cultures, the opposite proves to be true. 

 The idea of not valuing differences, which is essentially what colorblindness promotes, become problematic when say a white teacher cannot reflect on her unconscious racial biases towards her students. These biases can then, according to, “influence expectation, actions, and even the way a teacher addresses students of color”. Evidence has shown that these biases can have an enormous impact on students where many minority students deemed to be ‘low-ability’ are called on less in class and given less time to respond. 

When teaching children colorblindness, it simply makes them blind to the experiences of others and avoids any opportunity to talk about differences. In order to help children form positive associations with other races and cultures, it is essential to openly answer all their questions about race. This includes those questions that might be uncomfortable. 

For instance, a white child asking, “Why is her skin dirty?” while in a grocery store line shouldn’t be answered with “We don’t say those things” but “Her skin isn’t dirty. It is simply a different color. People have many different skin colors which is what makes everyone unique”. A black child may ask the question, “How come Santa is never black”? Use this question to talk about needing further diversity on television and in the movies. Be open and honest! Use these questions to get an understanding of your child’s thoughts on race and to communicate the importance of multiculturalism to them.  

Studies have shown that children often gravitate towards other people of their same race and that they find comfort in those that share their similar features. It is important then for parents to create a diverse environment for children and to make sure our children are exposed to many different cultures to widen that circle. According to Huff Post Parents, “the developmental window for teaching children to look beyond color starts by age three (and likely much earlier). Observe your children’s daycare, playdates and school to ensure racial integration. Kids seek out like-minded (and similar-looking) friends due to a trait called essentialism. It’s your job to make sure the play pool continues to get mixed up”. 

Race is something that is important to talk about with children and shouldn’t be glossed over. It is important that parents have honest discussions about race and use this dialogue to help their children not only see beauty in themselves but also in others. Join in on this conversation with us on Facebook or Twitter

Little Proud Kid

A place to celebrate all people… one people. We focus on bringing an array of multicultural toys, books, resources and more to help you teach and celebrate the uniqueness in each and every child. 


September 23, 2015 by Georgia Lobban
Older Post / Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.