Is the next generation blind to race?

Multiple events and conversations over the last few weeks have me thinking about the future of race relations in our country. I want to share with you a couple of the items and then see what you think:

  1. I recently met a photographer from Seattle. She was telling me that her teenage son and his friends don’t think about race at all. They hang out with and date anyone they choose regardless of race.
  2. I see this with my kids and with my babysitters as well. My kids don’t care at all (and I don’t think they think at all) about the color of their friends. They choose to play with whomever they like. The same is true for the older kids I know in our community. They date outside their races and don’t seem to think much about it. (I wonder if their parents do – a little bit older than my generation?)
  3. The conversation with the photographer made me think about a story I wrote about five years ago asking an education expert from Columbia University about what we should be teaching our kids about race. We had visited President Andrew Jackson’s house  The Hermitage with Rose when she was about 4 and when she saw the slave quarters out back we had no idea how to explain that African-American used to be enslaved. We loved that in preschool she seemed to have absolutely no concept of color and we hated to introduce that to her. The expert’s advice was that you have to introduce the concept of color when they are small to have a foundation for other conversations.
  4. And finally I saw last week this story about how inter-racial marriages are surprisingly down. So the question is if this generation of kids/teens/ young adults don’t really think much about race then why would the rate of interracial marriage be slowing? From the AP story:

“Melting pot or racial divide? The growth of interracial marriages is slowing among U.S.-born Hispanics and Asians. Still, blacks are substantially more likely than before to marry whites.”

“The number of interracial marriages in the U.S. has risen 20 percent since 2000 to about 4.5 million, according to the latest census figures. While still growing, that number is a marked drop-off from the 65 percent increase between 1990 and 2000.”

“About 8 percent of U.S. marriages are mixed-race, up from 7 percent in 2000.”

“The latest trend belies notions of the U.S. as a post-racial, assimilated society. Demographers cite a steady flow of recent immigration that has given Hispanics and Asians more ethnically similar partners to choose from while creating some social distance from whites due to cultural and language differences.”

“White wariness toward a rapidly growing U.S. minority population also may be contributing to racial divisions, experts said.”

” ‘Racial boundaries are not going to disappear anytime soon,’ said Daniel Lichter, a professor of sociology and public policy at Cornell University. He noted the increase in anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as well as current tensions in Arizona over its new immigration law.”

” ‘With a white backlash toward immigrant groups, some immigrants are more likely to turn inward to each other for support,’ Lichter said.”

So what do you think: Are our kids and teens post-racial? Do they have any care at all what color their friends or loved ones are? If this supposition is true then how it affect the country in the future? Also why do you think interracial marriages are increasing at a slower rate even if these young people don’t think about race?

85 comments Add your comment

Photius

June 2nd, 2010
8:08 am

It will get better with each generation, but it will never go away. America has a long history of hating every group that ever came here.

Lori

June 2nd, 2010
8:30 am

My son, who is 6 doesn’t care about race, nor does his friends. But unfortunately they still hear and see things from the older generations. It’ll never truly be gone from our society, at least not for a very, very long time. Racism is a learned behavior and as long as people continue to hate and segregate, future generations will learn to as well.

Michelle

June 2nd, 2010
8:45 am

I do not think it will ever go away. You will always have people who feel they are better than others, whether it is skin color, hair color, nationality, area of town etc.

The best thing we can do is educate our children. I try to teach my son that under the color of the skin, we are exactly the same (i.e. it’s just a color and nothing more)! That is difficult to do though when you hear adults talking differently!

Like Lori stated, it is a learned behavior!

Becky

June 2nd, 2010
8:49 am

I don’t think that it’s just the kids and pre teens now..I have twin nephews that are in there early 30’s and in high school, they had friends of all nationalities and races..One of my nephews has never dated an “American” girl..Through high school, he dated 2 girls from China, then a girl from Mexico and is now married to a girl from Peru..

I do think though that in maybe 15-20 years, there won’t be as many races as there are now, because of mixed marriages and relations..My two little ones though don’t see any colors when it comes to their friends..Most of the kids that they go to school with are Hispanic, and a few blacks mixed with a few whites..I don’t recall seeing any Asians or other nationalities..

JJ

June 2nd, 2010
8:55 am

My daughter is from a mixed marriage, and she is BEAUTIFUL. IMHO mixed kids are the prettiest.

Allie

June 2nd, 2010
9:07 am

As long as some parents are leading with the wrong example, their kids will grow up with the belief that it’s ok to hate other races. Since we moved to the south (rural area as opposed to Atlanta), I’ve noticed racism is more prevalent here than in other parts of the country. And it’s not just in the US, I’ve seen it in other countries too.

Van Jones

June 2nd, 2010
9:15 am

I think it would go away it certain groups wouldn’t try so hard to keep it alive. Last night on the news there was a story about all the bruhaha with the SCLC. SCLC, sounds innocent enough. Their logo was shown and it is red/black/green – the colors of the Pan African flag, not the goog old red, white and blue. Difficult to ignore the divisiveness.
Last month when the Jessica Colotl story was all over the local news several groups held rallys in her name. Two of them are the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. Again, difficult to ignore the divisiveness.

FCM

June 2nd, 2010
9:15 am

I think it depends on where you live etc. Some areas are not understanding of Susie having two Mommies. Others are not happy that Billy’s Mom and Dad are different races. Jose’s parents are another deep subject. Other places none of that makes a big difference.

It also depends on how you raise your child. My children are being taught we shouldn’t judge. I don’t care about any of those things above. I care about if the person is a decent human being. Period.

However, not everyone teaches that to their young. Race, gender preference, etc are only a big deal if we make it out to be.

Becky

June 2nd, 2010
9:25 am

@JJ..I have a great nephew and 4 great nieces that are mixed (Hispanic and white)..The ironic thing to the nieces is that the Dad is white, the Mom is Hispanic, yet the Dad is upset that one of my great nephews married a black guy..I just think that whoever makes you happy is the person that you should be with..I don’t care what color they are..As for mixed babies being beautiful, you are so, so right on that..I saw a couple once, he was black ( a taller wersion of Taye Diggs), she was Asian, they had 2 children and boy were they beautiful babies..

gen x

June 2nd, 2010
9:32 am

Kids don’t see color like that. They have no perspective of history.

But things will be much better once the baby boomers are gone. I’m sorry, but the boomers are the sorriest generation ever. Generation X, by comparison was a whole lot better. These boomers marched in the street as young people for civil rights and to end an unjust war. Then something happened to them. Maybe it was the cocaine in the 80s. These days, all they do is complain about taxes. Complain about social security, but they won’t be sending it back. They hold on to dated social mores even when they used to stand up and try to rock convention. They believe in greed. They worship the corporation. These were the idealist and look at them now.

Look what they tried to do to their children. They imposed a system where any laborious work was beneath their precious children and tried like heck to turn out nothing but lawyers, doctors, insurance agents, and bankers. The thought of their angels digging ditches or building roads became too much for them to bear.

And what service did that do for their child? When he finishes his higher education and starts the world with $50,000 in debt and a starting wage that is no better than the laborers that they were taught to sneer down upon. Goood luck Johnny. You work in an office, you made me so proud!

Thanks a lot boomers.

gpkbsin

June 2nd, 2010
9:32 am

I agree with @Allie. If you don’t talk about racial differences, your kids will not notice it. I am Indian and I see a lot of Indian parents of late teens who are discriminating. I try to talk to the kids (almost adults) and they don’t see a difference in races.

BRC

June 2nd, 2010
9:32 am

For now, we have just explained that some people have more melanin in their skin than others. For our mixed race children, that has seemed to satisfy them for the time being. Except there was the one day when the darker skinned of our children turned to the lighter one and taunted “I have more melanin than you!” I guess at that age, more, regardless of what it is more of, is always better.

JATL

June 2nd, 2010
9:42 am

Well, of course, kids SEE racial differences, but as long as parents or society doesn’t make a huge deal out of them, then all they see is that some people look different than they do. I love the fact that in this day and age race doesn’t seem to be a huge factor in deciding who to date or be friends with or anything. My oldest was 3.5 before I ever heard him allude to a different race as actually being that -he commented about a kid at his preschol being “brown.” It wasn’t anything more to him than describing another kid as having red hair or something. I’m very happy that in their short little lives, both of my boys are getting a lot of exposure to many different races and different types of people in a variety of situations. They’ve had many black teachers at preschool, and our nanny’s boyfriend is from Ghana and is great with them. They play with lots of Hispanic and African-American kids (and a few Asian kids -not a huge Asian population where we live) at the playgrounds around our house and at school (the oldest -youngest isn’t in school). I think we’ll always see the different appearances, but I’m hoping that it becomes only that -and the positive parts of different cultures. I would hate for the world to lose the different cultural identities that make us all interesting!

JJ -you may be a teensy bit biased, but you’re right! OF course MY lily white kids are the two most beautiful kids I’ve ever laid eyes on ;-) BUT mixed race children are gorgeous! Becky -African and Asian children are amazingly beautiful, and I love to see white/black children who have lovely dark skin, green eyes and just a tinge of blonde in their hair that kind of picks up on a golden tone in their skin. You just don’t get prettier than that.

As far as dating and relationships -I don’t care who my kids fall for as long as that person is kind to them and a decent human being. Gay, straight, different race -I just want them to be happy.

momofone

June 2nd, 2010
10:18 am

Here’s an interesting editorial by Leonard Pitts on the subject–very depressing.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/7020508.html

JJ

June 2nd, 2010
10:19 am

GenX – Have you attended your anger management class this week?

Becky

June 2nd, 2010
10:25 am

@JATL..About the skin tones..Two of my great nieces are what we call our blue eyed Mexican babies..They have the pretty blue eyes of Dad and the darker skin tone of Mom..I think that Halle Berry has the prettiest skin tones of anyone and I would love to have her tones..

Alecia

June 2nd, 2010
10:44 am

I think it is interesting how everyone considers hispanic or latino to be a race. It is not a race. Latin America is one large melting pot just like the United States. I have never referred to someone’s race as American. I have traveled to several parts of Latin America and have met folks with blonde hair/light eyes as well as blacks with dark brown eyes. If a black man from Cuba marries a black woman from Atlanta, is it an inter-racial marriage? My husband is Latino and has relatives that are Basque, Indian(Mayan),and Spanish(Spain). One of my spanish professors in college had blonde hair, green eyes, and was from Cuba. I am curious how they determined that inter-racial marriages for hispanics has gone down if there was no race to begin with.

Wayne

June 2nd, 2010
10:48 am

@Becky: is the Dad upset that the great nephew married a black guy, or that the great nephew married a guy?

Cammi317

June 2nd, 2010
11:11 am

LOL@Wayne. I thought the same thing, but I think that she misprinted and meant one of her nieces. If you go back and read the post she said she had 1 nephew and 4 nieces, so the staement about “one of” her nephews makes no sense.

Becky

June 2nd, 2010
11:13 am

@Wayne..Wow, sorry about that post..I don’t feel to great today and didn’t even realize what I posted..It should be that a gret niece married a black guy.. As of this time, I don’t think that we’ve run into the gay issue in my family..He’s upset that his niece married a black guy, yet his wife is Hispanic..Sorry for the confusion..

Becky

June 2nd, 2010
11:16 am

Thanks Cammi317 for realizing that..With all of the nieces and nephews in my family, it gets confusing for me to keep up with..

Wayne

June 2nd, 2010
11:29 am

@Becky: go get some rest! Sheesh, I gotta tell these people everything… ;)

catlady

June 2nd, 2010
11:35 am

I think it is more class than race now.

Becky

June 2nd, 2010
11:40 am

@Wayne..I’m on my way home now..:)

catlady

June 2nd, 2010
11:41 am

Yeah, that thing about Hispanic being a race bothers me, too. The Latino children I teach have green eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes, black eyes, and are every shade of pale to dark. Most are some lovely shade of cafe au lait (some with more cafe, some with more cream).

My younger daughter dated black guys, Latino guys, white guys. Married a Latino. Never mattered much to her. Of course, when I went back to grad school (she was 3) she was the only blonde haired blue eyed kid in her university sponsored nursery school. Her friends just seem to be her friends, but I suspect it is more a function of class.

Wayne

June 2nd, 2010
11:43 am

Finally! Someone actually listened to me! Woo hoo!

penguinmom

June 2nd, 2010
12:42 pm

I think the reason that race will continue to be a problem in our society is that there are some people who have made it their business to make race a big issue. When something happens someone rushes in to hold a rally or accuses one side or the other of racism. This makes it seem like there are more racial problems then there actually are.

I’m glad kids are growing up more colorblind in general. I remember having to explain to my son what was meant by African-American and getting a ‘is so-n-so an African-American?’ question. The difference had never even occurred to him before that moment. To most kids today, I think skin color falls right up there with hair and eye color as just the way you were made.

HB

June 2nd, 2010
12:45 pm

Race is an arbitrary construct to begin with, but with regard to “Hispanic”, I believe the reason it’s often been considered a race is because the term was meant to refer specifically to people of Spanish and Native American descent (and maybe Portuguese/Native American, but I’m not sure), as opposed to say white Americans descended only from white European settlers/immigrants. “Latino”, I believe, was originally meant to refer not to race, but to culture from Mexico down through South America where Romance (Latin-based) languages are spoken (mostly Spanish and Portuguese).

JJ

June 2nd, 2010
1:01 pm

Becky – I hope you feel better soon!!!!

FCM

June 2nd, 2010
1:30 pm

“Many scientists have pointed out that traditional definitions of race are imprecise, arbitrary, have many exceptions, and have many gradations, and that the numbers of races delineated vary according to the culture making the racial distinctions. Thus, those rejecting the notion of race typically do so on the grounds that such definitions and the categorizations that follow from them are contradicted by the results of genetic research” WOOO HOOO most of the comments regarding Hispanic and Latino on the blog today proved what several scientist already believe!

“Today many scientists study human genotypic and phenotypic variation using concepts such as “population” and “clinal gradation”. Large parts of the academic community take the position that, while racial categories may be marked by sets of common phenotypic or genotypic traits, the popular idea of “race” is a social construct without base in scientific fact” Again, a social construct therefore Latino can be a “race”.

We went through this once before. The 5 basic scientific classifactions that most call “race” are no longer used in that sense. As we have homoginized we have had to turn to different classifications and that opened “race” to be much more than that including subsets of the original 5.

(Thank you teachers for educating me…you forced me–back then–to do research regardless of the subject. Now I can use those skills to learn and decide for myself. I hope my children’s teachers do the same for them).

DB

June 2nd, 2010
1:57 pm

GenX, every generation thinks that they have “improved” on the previous generation. The simple fact is that the Baby Boomers have aged, and with age comes a desire for stability and less tolerance for change. You may think that GenX was “better”, but let’s face it — Baby Boomers ARE the ones that lived through and drove a tremendous period of social change, from the Cold War, political assassinations and Vietnam to Roe vs. Wade, social equality for sex AND race, and rapidly shifting mores in employment, marriage, divorce and childbearing. Our parents lived through the Depression and World War II, which brought its own set of unique views to the table. If GenX is “better” (and I do not conceed that it is “better”, only that it has had to deal with a very different set of challenges) , it’s because the Baby Boomers created the social structure and opportunities that allowed them to succeed in ways that Baby Boomers and Depression babies could never dream of. GenX grew up in the economic uncertainties after the Vietnam War, including Jimmy Carter’s presidency of economic turmoil, the 70’s oil crisis, the savings-and-loans failures, as well as the recessions of the early 80’s.

FCM

June 2nd, 2010
2:31 pm

DB–being a GenX I would contend that we are facing the current eco crisises–and had the excess spending habits–just because we did live through those things you mention. I don’t think we are better, I just think we are a step further in the evolution of the species…or maybe that is just hopful thinking that we are further :)

JJ

June 2nd, 2010
2:38 pm

AMEN DB!!!!!!!

Suzie

June 2nd, 2010
2:42 pm

Interesting you should bring this topic up, when the results of a pilot study released recently indicate that no, the younger generation is not blind to race. Check it out: http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/13/doll.study/index.html

DB

June 2nd, 2010
3:10 pm

FCM — every generation hopes that their children will have it “better” — better opportunities for growth, employment, education, happiness, personal fulfillment, etc., etc. They just don’t want their kids to rub their noses in it as they enjoy the advantages that their parents worked so hard to provide for them!

As a Baby Boomer born on the cusp of Baby Boomers and GenX, I can truthfully say that I grew up with almost every advantage: nice home, superb education, an awareness of social issues, a stable family life, enough money for everything I needed and most of what I wanted. I’ve been privileged to witness THE fastest-changing era in the history of mankind, in terms of technology, communication and social mores. Every once in a while, I reflect that my cell phone carries more computing capability than the main frame I used while I was at university — talk about “pocket miracles”!

I had a GenX-er try to sneer at me the other day by telling me that he was probably more “technology proficient” than I was. (Uh, no . . .) This all started because I didn’t interrupt a conversation to answer my cell phone, and he told me that he thought it was rude to ignore the phone call. I told him that my cell phone was a tool, not a leash for any random person to jerk as they saw fit. He maintained that people “his age” expected instant response, and I told him that people “his age” had lost all sense of personal boundaries when it came to technology (witness Facebook). Interesting conversation.

JATL

June 2nd, 2010
3:14 pm

@DB -you go! I’m a “GenX’r” -a term I’ve always despised -and very technology proficient, but someday I may see the inside of a jail cell after I do what I long to do with someone’s cell phone…

FCM

June 2nd, 2010
3:15 pm

My child had another child’s hands around her throat yesterday. My child told the teacher that “Susie” was choking her. Teacher asked Susie why…Susie said “I don’t like light skin people.” Susie spent time in the daycare office.

According to the daycare my child did not provoke the incident. It was her first day at the new daycare (we finally moved into the house!!!).

I told my daughter that sometime parents try their best to instill that we are all just people…just like crayons in a box….but not all children learn the lesson. I am not going to teach my child to hate or be hateful. (I will however teach her to kick Susie’s butt if she tries to choke her again).

DB

June 2nd, 2010
3:19 pm

@JATL: Think of it this way — they can’t call 911 if their phone is where I think you’re going to shove it :-)

SRH

June 2nd, 2010
3:22 pm

very interesting topic. I agree that a lot of it has to do with upbringing. I was at a restaurant a while back and there were two families – one black and one white, each with a baby on a high chair. The babies cooed and smiled at each other, and it was very cute. The parents either didn’t notice or pretended not to. But it was cute, and my husband and I commented on how babies loved everybody, regardless of race. I grew up somewhere that did not have diversity in terms of black and white, but rather English vs. French, so we hate our issues that way, and lots of misunderstandings that way. Very silly, when I look back. I am in my late 40s.

SRH

June 2nd, 2010
3:23 pm

had, not hate….

Mattie

June 2nd, 2010
3:37 pm

In my family’s experience, the race hasn’t mattered as much as the class and cultural differences. Until we moved to GA when my kids were entering HS, they never even had a black child in their classes. Here in Milton, my middle son has several black friends, mainly because of playing football with them. But, they also see each other outside of school.

When middle son was away at GA Southern last year, he wanted to bring back a Playstation system after the holiday break. I didn’t want him to, because I knew the dorm lounge had every video system imaginable. But, he told me he hated going to the lounge. He said the black kids segregated themselves there, and took over the games all day. They didn’t acknowledge his presence when he tried to join in.

Now, he’s home for the summer, and hanging with all of his HS friends, black and white.
The difference seems to be that at home, the kids come from similar backgrounds, and have similar interests.

G.R.I.T.S.

June 2nd, 2010
7:39 pm

thank you DB!! very well said…i personally think that a lot of gen x people are very rude…im not sure if it is because so many of these had both parents that worked or only one parent…whatever…i am a baby boomer and yeah…we all change…but look at how many kids these days wish they had grown up in our day…i hear that alot….well im not gonna go on and on about this because really DB said it all much better than i would….

as for race…i was raised in a very racist family and went the complete other way in teaching my kids…i have 2 half hispanic grandchildren and 1 more on the way…im with whoever said above–as long as the mate my kids choose treats them right i dont care what color they are…or what nationality–well maybe the nationality would matter because i dont want them moving to another country!!! unless i could go too lol…but i think there will always be racism and prejudice…..i just had a semester in sociology on this…there are always going to be people who think they are better than others for whatever reason they have..it will always be this way…an interesting documentary if you are interested is at this link…its called a class divided..and it is very very interesting…
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/ if the link doeswnt work..either go to frontline and watch it there or just google ‘a class divided’

BlondeHoney

June 2nd, 2010
8:31 pm

I agree that much of this is related to where you were brought up AND how you were raised…I was raised in Miami and my ex is a VERY dark-skinned Puerto Rican, a mix of african slaves and the indigenous people of the island (Arawaks) while I am a lily white blonde blue eyed girl. No one down there even blinks an eye about relationships/marriages between races but whoa, here it’s a TOTALLY different story. And JJ, YES you are right my two mixed boys are GORGEOUS like your daughter ;)

FCM

June 3rd, 2010
9:07 am

oh JJ I agree with you on the mixed babies/children. BEAUTIFUL! Of course I do think my two are pretty–and they have an Italian/Irish thing going on. They also have the stero typical tempers of both of those groups. LOL

Magenta

June 3rd, 2010
10:49 am

I’ve seen it as more of a class thing. My son (white) attended schools in a few different places and in the more upscale locations he had friends of all races. However, in a smaller city, zoned for a high school in a depressed area, he sought out the white kids because he could not relate to his black classmates. Most had never been anywhere outside our town; they were not college-bound, and my son felt uncomfortable visiting their homes because drug use and weapons possession were commonplace. Often there were no adults to be found anywhere. He felt very conflicted about this, and more than once said “I know this probably sounds racist, but…” He knew a lot of his classmates were very disadvantaged economically, and felt bad for their situation and very down at not being able to do anything about it.

gen x

June 3rd, 2010
12:39 pm

Don’t get me wrong. My generation isn’t great, but at least we aren’t hypocrits. I mean, the boomers took to the streets in the 1960s and 70s and forced social change. Then they got power and became exactly what they stood up against. When i see the news today, i still see the protestors and they are the same ones that protested then. Now, they stand in the way of progress.

All they care about now is that their taxes stay low. They don’t care about equal rights anymore, just low taxes.

DavidS

June 3rd, 2010
5:06 pm

So long as there are people like Jessie Jackson and his ilk, there will never be a chance for a color-blind society. Far too many people make far too much money and derive far too much power from keeping the races at each others’ throats. Frankly the republican/democratic devide benefits tremendously from fear of the “other.” Our entire political system is based these days on passing laws that benefit one group, victimize another, all to maintain hostilities among the people so that neither group will realize that the real problem is now and has always been the government.

Jim Crow laws that prohibited integration were the product of GOVERNMENT, not individuals acting on their own. Earned income tax credits victimize working folks to the benefit of the poor. The entire income tax system is based on division and manipulation of voters.

But one also needs to understand that measures like racially-integrated marriages are as stupid a measure of “color-blindness” as employee racial makeup is a measure of racism of the employer.

If we are to have a color-blind society, then people need to be able to discriminate (meaning to make a conscious decision between choices) as they feel. I am a vegetarian. I would discriminate against a meat eater in any potential relationship just as I might discriminate against anyone with interests different from those I might enjoy. I am either allowed to make my own decisions or I am not. Culturally we are different. We are different culturally within our races as much as we are between our races. Asians might maintain strong ties to past history why other groups may not. This might cause an asian to find another asian more attractive than a northern european person. Why is that so bad?

Is the achievement of the “beige” race more important that people finding happiness? Are we now to deny freedom, just to compensate for past denials of other types of freedom?

This is the greatest and best criticism that many have against the forced integration that govenrnment has been pushing for so many years. Were we all just allowed to associate freely (as the constitution supposedly protects), we would likely be far happier and more interactive as races than the situation that government has caused with their use of race as a tool for gaining political power and votes.

Try some freedom with your children. Race is a problem of politically-connected adults.

DavidS

June 3rd, 2010
5:16 pm

Here’s what a tremendously intelligent black economist has to say on the subject of discrimination:

http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/articles/10/TheRightToDiscriminate.htm

Keith

June 5th, 2010
4:43 pm

I would disown any child of mine who dated or married outside of our race.

Jere

June 5th, 2010
5:16 pm

I am about to marry an Asian and I really do not even think of it as being a mixed marriage. She is cool, I love her and we will be happy together. The age of instutuional racism in this nation is over.