Who’s smart? Who’s friendly? Who’s trustworthy? Who’s not?
By ria gambhir
While hearing about the death of Trayvon Martin was devastating, for me watching George Zimmerman go free afterwards was even more so. And if that wasn’t enough, when 12-year-old Tamir Rice (top photo) was killed after playing with a toy gun, the police officers involved were let off the hook. As a 13 year-old person of color, I found myself troubled by this.
These unfair killings of innocent black people repeated itself again and again. Michael Brown. Jason Harrison. Eric Garner. And countless others.
Eventually, when science fair came around, my classmate Janice Qiu and I wanted to learn more about racial bias. Our project was designed to gauge the presence of racial bias in young children, as well as to see whether and how bias differs across age groups. We conducted an experiment to see when racism becomes active in children so we could then think about how to push back against it.
First, we handed out forms to anyone who wished to participate. In the end we had fifteen students each from grade 2-3 (split class), grade 5, and grade 8. These girls and boys were all from the same school and represented a range of racial backgrounds.
We showed 45 participants six images of individuals of different races and genders (African American man and woman, East Asian man and woman, Caucasian man and woman). Then, we asked each participant to rate the trustworthiness, friendliness, happiness, determination, and intelligence of each person (images) on a scale of 1–10.
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