Are young children really color blind?

Are young children really color blind?

Bias and Prejudice in the Eyes of Children

A research by CNN about the young children attitude on race

Ambiguous scene

If two pictures above were presented in front of you, and then you were asked to explain what happened, what would be your answer? What happened to Scott and Bobby (in the left picture)? And what happened to Alex and Christ? (in the right picture)

It was about 60 years ago the schools in America were desegregated and it was declared that racially separate schools are inherently unequal.

It is about five years now after the country’s first black president…

I  really want to know a lot from this country about young children’s attitudes on race, their bias and prejudices recently…  is racism still exist, at least in people’s mind nowadays?

CNN was interestingly presented the research and reported about Kids in Race, about the unconscious judgment based on skin color. This is the second time that AC360 (Andersen Cooper) in the CNN program studied specifically Children on Race.

Dr. Melanie Killen from University of Maryland measured the children’s attitude on race with her research toward 145 children with the age about 6 years old, from 6 different schools across 3 states in America. The schools they choose based on three different racial make-ups: the majority white schools, majority African –American Schools and racially diverse schools.

Dr Killen then showed the picture above, there are two children with the  different skin color (the left one) and asked the children the question like: “What is happening here?” Are this children friend? This picture is designed to be ambiguous to understand  what happened IN THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER.

Then they showed them another picture (the right picture) and asked the same question. The only different of the picture is the race of the children: they were flipped.

Both white and African American children were tested, showed to 6 years old children and the 13 years old children and then the children were asked open-ended questions about race as well.

From this research, a lot of adult do not realize that young kids as young as 6 years old already talk about or think about race!

Here are the research found that might surprise you:

Young white children are more negative for the interaction between the races than young black children are. When young white children showed that picture above, 70% of them thought that something negative happened, and the black young children saw the same picture, only 38 % saw something negative!

White kids are far more likely to think that white child and black on the picture are not friend, think that their parent would not approve them being friend. But Why?


Many question filled our mind such as:

“Why these children have attitudes on race?”

“How those attitudes will change when the kids grow older?

How the race of their classmate will shape the adult they are going to become?

The expert Dr. Melanie Killen said that children experiences along the messages that the HEAR AT SCHOOL, the character of the TV show THEY WATCH or THEY SEE ONLINE- all of those have an effect, but several messages ADULT MIGHT NOT BEEN REALIZED THEY SEND  also have a huge effect on children.  It is what we called: IMPLICIT BIAS!

Dr. Killen said that the misperception of the parent that kids are colorblind has a lot to do with it! According to the research above, then why are young black children are more positive about race than the young white children?

More over Dr. Killen explained that the African American parents very early prepare the children for the world of diversity and the world of potential discrimination. In contrast, a lot of white parent found out that if you talked about the race, you create the problem.

Personally, I was so amazed and surprised to find out that actually children are aware of the race since their very early age! To deal with this issue on society means that we have to engage ourselves both INDIVIDUALLY and COLLECTIVELY. I realize that it is not an easy thing to do, but at least we have the awareness to start doing something toward it!

Just now I was curious and tried to present the pictures above to my 9 years old daughter and asked about her views. For the first picture, her response was like this:

“The boy at the back probably pushes the boy in front, so he fell down”

In addition, when the second picture with the picture of the boy flipped the skin color presented to her, she responded that

“It was just the same, the boy at the back probably push the boy at the front, so he fell down”

I tried to inquiry more to my daughter about both pictures, and what she explained about both pictures are about how both of the boys play together but one push another so the other one fell down and sad. She did not mention anything about the color of both boys!

To my wonder, I asked her directly a question like this “ Do you think that what the boys are doing have any connection with the color of their skin?  And she directly answered “NO!

Learning from the research in America by CNN,  I hope that my daughter, who were born and raised among the international community of the expatriates that consist of various people from around the world, will have the benefit from her interaction with people with so many colors, backgrounds and cultures so that she would have the understanding that we are not defined by the color of our skin and respect all uniqueness and different color of the other people around us.

This is my daughter Aubrey (third from left) and her best friends, circle of friendship from around the world.  "England, Scotland, Indonesia, Netherlands, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Thailand-A World United in My Heart".  It's a wonderful memory of her farewell party with the Jungle theme when she was in Muscat- Oman- just before we left Oman to the jungle of Brunei Darussalam.

This my daughter Aubrey (third from left) and her best friends, circle of friendship from around the world. “England, Scotland, Indonesia, Netherlands, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Thailand-A World United in My Heart”
It’s a wonderful memory of her farewell party with the Jungle theme when she was in Muscat- Oman- just before we left Oman to the jungle of Brunei Darussalam.


A Look at Race Relations through a Child;s Eyes. Retrieved from

Anderson Cooper Examines Kids’ Views on Race. Retrieved from

Readers: Children learn attitudes about race at home. Retrieved from


6 responses to “Are young children really color blind?

  1. nyiedum ifiok-ufot

    WOW!and WOW! This is a very interesting read. It seems the people from the dominant white culture do not prepare their children about diversity. Children also observe the biases so not talking about race and diversity does not make it go away. Thank you so much for sharing this research done by CNN.

    • Dear nyiedum ifiok-ufot,

      thank you for exploring my blog and yes, a research can reveal and confirm many things that sometimes beyond our thinking.

      It inspires us all to conduct a research based on our interest. Race, diversity and culture is a great topic and the most important, the research in this field will teach us a lot how to be an anti-bias educator!

      Thank you and Thank you!

      Regards from Brunei Darussalam

      Evita Kartikasari

  2. Evita,
    You have done it again! Your blog is so beautifully done, but more importantly it is informative and thought provoking, and I really enjoy reading it. The study is rather fascinating, but I am not surprised by the findings as far as White children being less open to interaction and friendship with a minority child. After all bigots are made not born. For a minority child friendship with a White child is an opportunity to be on the inside instead of on the outside wondering what it would be like to get in.
    By the way, your little girl is beautiful.

    • Dear Lisa,

      Thank you for exploring my blog!
      So many research has been done and how I never realize how interesting they are! I learn a lot from many research especially research in the other country.

      Thank you Lisa and keep in touch!

      Evita Kartikasari

  3. Evita,
    Great post again! You mentioned many important points about bias and prejudice. I was looking at the picture you post regarding the little boys, I’m not sure what is going to happend to the little boys.

  4. Hi Shelda,

    Thank you for your honest comment about my posting!
    The picture of the boys are indeed an ambiguous picture, you can interpret it according to your own interpretation, and there is no right or wrong answer- it is just oppinion.

    Well, what do you think then what happened to the boys in the left and right picture?

    Happy thinking then, Shelda….. 🙂


    Evita Kartikasari

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