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March 30th, 2012
05:41 PM ET

When it comes to kids and race, CNN study asks: Is what you see what you get?

Dave Schechter
Senior National Editor

While there is much still to be learned about the circumstances that led to the death of Trayvon Martin, public reaction to the Florida case makes clear that race relations remains an issue that generates heat in American society.

Consider two scenes from a school hallway. A white boy stands over a black boy who is knelt down picking up papers. What happened?

Now change the picture. A black boy stands over a white boy who is knelt down picking up papers. What happened?

CNN will use these and other images the week of April 2 to shine light on how children perceive matters of race in a series titled "AC360 Special Report: Kids on Race, The Hidden Picture,” to air at 8pE and 10pE, as well as online at the “AC360” blog at CNN.Com.

Here is Anderson Cooper talking about the program.

CNN commissioned a study that builds on the doll test research from the 1940s that examined how African-American children viewed race. In this update, 145 children, black and white, ages 6 and 13, from six schools in three states, were shown images “designed to be ambiguous to children” and asked “What is happening in this picture?”

The updated study aims to answer such questions as these: “Is race a factor in how children view conflicts and choose friends? Do children see race or are they, as many parents believe, socially colorblind? How, when and why do they form their opinions on race? Can those opinions change over time or at a certain age, are kids “hard-wired” about race? And does the racial make-up of their school and environment affect their opinions on race?”

Reading elsewhere about race, the Greenlining Institute last year issued a report titled “Post-Racial?/Americans and Race in the Age of Obama,” which examined data from several sources, including the 2008-2010 American National Election Panel survey. “People of color tend to see the state of relations between whites and blacks as being far worse than whites see it. While more than twice as many whites believe there is “a little” racial discrimination in America as believe there is “a lot,” Hispanics divide roughly evenly between the two choices, while blacks overwhelmingly see “a lot” of discrimination – by a nearly four to one margin,” the summary read.

According to this report, only 16 percent of whites believed that there was “a lot” of discrimination in America, compared with 56 percent of blacks and 26 percent of Latinos. As to whether there was “some” discrimination, 44 percent of whites, 56 percent of blacks and 48 percent of Latinos agreed. When it came to whether there was “a little” discrimination, 39 percent of whites, 8 percent of blacks and 21 percent of Latinos concurred.

Recent research out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that African-American men deal with discrimination by “taking it like a man” may suffer symptoms of depression. “We know that traditional role expectations are that men will restrict their emotions – or “take stress like a man,” said study author Wizdom Powell Hammond, an assistant professor of health behavior. “However, the more tightly some men cling to these traditional role norms, the more likely they are to be depressed.” Hammond reviewed interviews with 674 African-American men, ages 18 and older, conducted at barber shops in four regions, between 2003 and 2010.

All of this is fodder for organizations that work to bridge divides and improve communication on the issue of race, such as the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation which, since its creation in 1999, has conducted programs throughout Mississippi, a state whose racial history is known. Given a peek at materials related to the upcoming CNN reports, the Institute’s executive director, Susan Glisson, pronounced it the type of material that would be of benefit school programs addressing racial issues.

So, at a time when light is needed amid the heat, check out the “AC360 Special Report: Kids on Race, the Hidden Picture” this coming week on CNN.

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Todd

    Justice is what we are all seeking in this case. What isn't clear and the same for everybody is what defines that justice. So many have jumped to conclusions and demand a sentence without a comprehensive, exhaustive discovery of the facts surrounding the case. This kind of sentiment undermines the judicial process and, in fact, in one way, defines prejudice.
    One of the hallmarks of Martin Luther King's philosophy was that of Loving Your Enemies. King said that a man must discover the element of good in his enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.
    It is agreed that if it is found that an instance of murder has taken place, an appropriate measure of justice should be applied. At the same time, and without prejudice, it should also be agreed that if, by means of that same jurisprudence, a reasonable defense is found then we must ask ourselves, where then will the justice be.
    I have heard so much about "If George Zimmerman were black, he would have been arrested and held until trial",which may be true, but at the same time it also begs the question "If Trayvon Martin had been white, would there have been this same outcry?"
    I am upset and it is a real tragedy what happened that night, but for Trayvon and George's sake I refuse to form an opinion until I have all the facts. Then, and only then, will I let my heart rest on the truth.

    March 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  2. Niasha

    No one is demanding a sentence! That is what most of the opponents of the movement has wrong. All we are saying is that if anyone called the police told them they were suspicious of a person in their neighborhood, told the police they were going to follow them, and the police asked them not to, but yet the individual disregarded the directive and was later found with a gun and the person in question was dead from the bullet of said gun, then that individual would at least be charged with manslaughter even if it wasn't first degree cold blooded murder. They would at least be put in jail and await bail or trial. Sentencing would only come after a jury found the defendant guilty. Black people are a lot more savvy when it comes to the Judicial system than you might think. The other injustice is that the police nor the morgue or hospital found it necessary to respect the victim of the crime to find out who he was and contact his next of kin. This is a matter of injustice mainly due to malpractice. Zimmerman does what crazy people do, they kill innocent people in the streets with no remorse. Ok well get him off the streets and make him stand trial and convict him based on the evidence or not and sentence him according to his crime. Anything less than that is injustice and in this particular case a reflection of institutionalized racism, where black people are subhuman unworthy of justice and white people are superhuman worthy of loopholes that make them above the law of the land whenever it so suits them and theirs.

    April 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
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