A Texas university research program is teaching kids of all races about the systematic oppression of Black people, much to the chagrin of some local parents.
Professor Jean Williams at the University of Texas in Austin put a single class-room experiment in place in which four-year-olds raised in predominantly white classrooms were asked to reflect on stereotypes and pick out the symbols they saw behind those stereotypes.
What some of these youngsters stumbled on was the idea that anti-Black racism, that is, racist behavior that deters African Americans from using Black-themed music, clothing and art, really does exist. They also made a point of saying that Black people are “different” than whites, even though the general consensus of scientists and researchers is that the stereotype is culturally steeped in the United States, not inherent in any given group.
Overall, “hearings resulted in almost zero racial-group differences,” Williams said. But researchers did notice that white students saw Black culture through a “white supremacist” lens, viewing Black people as less deserving of proper treatment than their White counterparts. Williams explained that this did not mean that white students believed Black people were less intelligent or otherwise less worthy of equal treatment, as some might assume. She gave the example of Black children, such as the child who was taught about the colors, whose overwhelming response was that Black kids dress with a specific theme:
Racist theories about Blacks in the US. His simple reaction after hearing about Black culture is that Black kids dress differently and they act differently. Not only did this child’s four-year-old brain take in a concept that came from that older, bigger brain, his two-year-old brain took in a certain way that even the most experienced and sophisticated four-year-old needs that older brain to explain.
On the other hand, Native American students saw Black people as less deserving of “love and respect” than other groups.
Because of concerns raised by some locals in the Austin area, UT Austin has put a moratorium on the class, and has proposed its creation as an elective in the future. This episode raises some issues: Can 4-year-olds really get something seriously wrong from the way they perceive “Black culture”? And does it matter at all?