Scouring children for signs of racism dates back to the terrifying baby-doll study of the 1940s — in which, famously, 63 percent of black children, given a choice between playing with a white doll and a black doll, chose the former, saying it was nicer and prettier. (Hey — at least they didn't call the black one a monkey, a la Costco circa 2009.)

Today, Los Angeles scientists are apparently…

… still trying to feel out their youngest subjects for keys to the origins of American racism, which plays into the achievement gap and a poor-stay-poor society. Their latest experiment was a little less concrete than the baby-doll relic, but much more in-depth, and showing clear signs of prejudice at a young age.

The findings, titled “Awareness of ethnicity-based stigma found to start as early as second grade,” are that “even elementary school-aged children are aware of such stigmatization and, like older youths, they feel more anxious about school as a result.”

The study took place in NYC, not L.A., so this could just be a case of New York Shitty — but given the huge academic divide between white and black kids in our own city, often lined up with household income, the results could resonate here as well.

Female scientists of the same race as the test children held three private 40-minute interview sessions with 451 kids of African-American, Chinese, Dominican, Russian and European-American descent, ranging from 7 to 11 years old. Here's what they found:

Students were asked questions about their awareness of stigma, their anxiety about school, their interest in academics and their feelings of belonging in school.

“We found that differences in the young children's awareness of stigma were similar to differences among adults, with ethnic-minority children generally reporting more awareness than ethnic-majority children,” Fuligni said. “There were few differences by grade, suggesting that even second graders are sensitive to ethnic attitudes in society.”

Ethnic-minority children also reported higher academic anxiety, he said, which the researchers attributed to their greater awareness of stigma.

Not as easy to visualize as a black baby doll vs. white baby doll catfight, but still something to consider, for sure. (Commence stroking of chin hairs.)

And there's a slim ray of sunlight to update the depressing 1940s research: UCLA scientists found that despite their higher levels of academic anxiety, many minority kids “reported significantly higher interest in school than their ethnic-majority peers.”

Baby step, but we'll take it. Should at least quiet the asshats who try to argue the achievement gap has something to do with the laziness/lesser intelligence of those on the losing end.


LA Weekly