In one study, six-month-old babies spotted skin-color differences in photos of faces. By the age of three, children preferred friends of the same race. In another, white children five to seven years old in liberal Austin thought almost no white people are mean, but “some” or “a lot” of black people are mean.
Attending a diverse school “gives you just as many chances to learn stereotypes as to unlearn them,” a psychologist says.
Duke University’s James Moody “found that the more diverse the school, the more the kids self-segregate by race and ethnicity within the school, and thus the likelihood that any two kids of different races have a friendship goes down.”
All told, the odds of a white high-schooler in America having a best friend of another race is only 8 percent. Those odds barely improve for the second-best friend, or the third-best, or the fifth. For blacks, the odds aren’t much better: 85 percent of black kids’ best friends are also black.
When parents talk to children about racial differences explicitly, it makes a big difference for the better, Bronson and Merryman say. But many parents who tell their kids not to believe gender stereotypes are afraid to tackle racial stereotypes.