Bilingual is Better

CNN’s Anderson Cooper is devoting this whole week to a special report called “Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture.” I don’t have cable, but I just watched the first segment, which aired last night, online and I must confess: I cried.

I don’t know if you’ve watched it, but it was really difficult to watch a bunch of both white and black 6-year-olds — in other words, kids Vanessa’s age — talk about how the color of your skin matters when making friends. It was even harder to realize how unrealistic it is for parents to think that little kids are color-blind. The way these children were speaking about race, it’s obvious that they can totally see that we’re not all the same color and, sadly, many of them start having negative views based on skin color at a tender age.

If you haven’t watched the first segment, I hope you do, so you can see for yourself what’s on the mind of these first-graders, whom I believe are a good representation of all children in this country.

The one point that I found extremely interesting is that the majority of black kids had much more positive views on race and believed black and white children could be friends. While the majority of white kids felt the opposite. According to Dr. Melanie Killen, a renowned child psychologist contracted by AC360˚ to explain how race influences a child’s world, the reason behind this disparity is that most black parents talk to their children about race early on, whereas most white parents think that it’s better not to talk about it so that their children grow up being color-blind.

I haven’t spoken extensively about race to Vanessa, but we have had a few conversations. Sometimes I feel like she’s still too little to understand but, as evident from the CNN special, I might be wrong. What Vanessa and I have talked about mostly revolves more around the fact that the color of our skin doesn’t make us better or worse than anybody else. I’m not sure exactly how Vanessa sees herself. I mean, I’m sure she’s noticed that she’s the only dark-haired girl in her very non-Hispanic white kindergarten class, but I don’t really know what she thinks about that.

Race is an interesting topic within the Latino community. Many non-Latinos mistakenly think Latino is a race, but we know we come in all shades and colors. For many of us, in fact, it’s actually difficult to identify with just one race. That’s definitely the case with my own children who have traces of all races (except maybe Asian) running through their veins. After watching this first segment, I think I might be talking about race more regularly at home.

I’m really looking forward to watching the rest of the series (it didn’t air tonight because of the presidential primaries). Tomorrow’s segment on the judgments we make about other people based on their race and how early we start doing that shall be real interesting in the wake of Trayvon Martin‘s killing.


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