Children on race, racism

“People Are Children” is a short documentary, a conversation really, that explores the voices and perspectives of many types of children of varying backgrounds. When we discuss discrimination and diversity we sometimes forget that the world we are living in does not belong to us, but rather, our children. They are the ones who inherit our fears, loves, prejudices, etc. They learn it by watching us. In this short, children remind us of how simple, complicated and absurd intolerance is. They inspire us to change.

I stumbled across this short film on You Tube and found it compelling, though sometimes frustrating. It is educational to hear how children learn about race from adults, even when we think we aren’t teaching. Note the boy whose parents told him just not to look anyone in the eye, whatever their race.

It is frustrating, though, how the filmmakers’ biases about race seem to weave into the film. I was annoyed by the opening minutes of the documentary, because its makers seem to be pushing the meaningless notion that kids don’t understand the words “race,” “racism” or “ethnicity.” That is true–kids may not know those words, but they do understand difference; they do begin making assumptions based on skin color; and they do begin absorbing society’s biases about race–even if they don’t know what to call it. Too often, parents use “my kid won’t see race or racism unless I talk about it” as an excuse not to be proactive anti-racist parents.

What’s your take on this short film?

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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