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Do Babies See Race?

A few weeks ago, I read Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum. In it, the author talks about how she discussed skin color with her son. She told many stories about children realizing -- and growing confused -- that not everyone's skin looks like theirs. I couldn't pinpoint the moment I first noticed race, and my mom couldn't, either. "We didn't make a big deal about it, and you never seemed that confused," she told me.

That seemed healthy enough to me, until I read Newsweek's See Baby Discriminate by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman -- a fascinating look at children's development and how and when they start to notice race. The article says what many of us assume is false -- that just because your child isn't asking explicitly, "Why is that man's skin white and mine is black?" doesn't mean that she hasn't already made these distinctions, and created her own, uninformed reasons for the differences. And in fact, they claim it's up to the parents to bring the issue to light.

But perhaps I should file this under "Studies That Researchers Spent Thousands of Dollars on about Stuff We Already Know." Is it really surprising that the best thing for kids is information and honesty? What do you think? Have your kids asked any questions or made any interesting distinctions about people with different skin colors? How have you addressed race in your family?

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