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Children’s Understanding of Their Race Essay

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Updated: Jun 8th, 2022

The United States, is one of the most developed countries in the world, is traditionally considered a free state. There are unlimited equal opportunities for each of its citizens, regardless of skin color, race, religion, or lifestyle. This opinion exists among people on a global scale, but in reality, the situation looks completely different. Racism in America has existed since the very foundation of this country. The society that was created by white people also was biased in its attitude towards other ethnic and racial groups. Despite the fact that the times of slavery are long over, there are still many cases of violence and discrimination against people of color. Unfortunately, aside from obvious negative impacts, it has another effect of influencing children’s views on their race.

First of all, it is important to note that before discussing issues with identity and understanding of race, the term of ethnocentrism needs to be addressed and analyzed. According to this concept, a person’s value is determined not by personality but by belonging to one or another racial or ethnic group. Researchers state that almost every ethnic group is ethnocentric to some extent, which means that they view their own culture and language as superior to others (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2006). However, while in some cases, this belief does not go beyond pride about history, sometimes people of one race consider themselves exceptional and more deserving of basic human rights than others. From this confidence, a number of negative events, such as wars, killings, and casual discrimination was born in American society.

As a response to this phenomenon, a critical race theory (CRT) was created by scholars. According to Schriver (2011), CRT starts from the “premise that race and racism are central, endemic, permanent, and a fundamental part of defining and explaining how U.S. society functions” (p. 68). Even though research on this topic began relatively recently, it managed to create and spread awareness about how racism works (Johnson-Ahorlu, 2017, p. 730). For this reason, it provides a means for policymakers and civil rights activists to create a fair society without any biases.

Racism has a serious negative effect not only on adults but on children too. In conditions where social stigmas on ethnical groups are apparent, it is possible that immigrants who strongly identify with them can change the attitude towards their own culture and host culture (Padilla & Perez, 2003). In other words, in the case where there is a strong adverse influence of racism in society, people who experience mistreatment are stressed and blame their racial identity. Researchers note that “Asian Americans reported greater negative emotion intensity when they believed that they encountered a situation because of their race” (Wang et al., 2011, p. 1677). Even though there might be other possible explanations for such cases, minority groups can still interpret it as a result of discrimination. This perception is also imposed on children and, therefore, in the future, they may encounter problems due to the negative understanding of their race.

In conclusion, it would appear that there is an apparent need for further research on this topic since the attempts to study it began relatively recently. Nevertheless, it is evident that racial discrimination is still present in American society and negatively impacts the minds of not only adults but children as well. Cases of aggressions and ethnocentrism increase the stigma and divide people further; in addition, due to them, the young people’s view on their ethnicity may become distorted.


Johnson-Ahorlu, R. N. (2017). Efficient social justice: How critical race theory research can inform social movement strategy development. The Urban Review, 49(5), 729-745.

Padilla, A. M., & Perez, W. (2003). Acculturation, social identity, and social cognition: A new perspective. Hispanic journal of behavioral sciences, 25(1), 35-55.

Schriver, J.M. (2011). Human behavior and the social environment: Shifting paradigms in essential knowledge for social work practice (6th ed.). Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Wang, J., Leu, J., & Shoda, Y. (2011). When the seemingly innocuous “stings” racial microaggressions and their emotional consequences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(12), 1666-1678.

Zastrow, C., & Kirst-Ashman, K. (2006). Understanding human behavior and the social environment. Cengage Learning.

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