Column Sault Star: Kids take others as they come, color the hell

Children do not seem to consider socioeconomic value, ethnicity as friendship factors

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Children see things differently. They don’t even think about racism and prejudice; they learn that when adults talk and think kids aren’t listening.

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It is fascinating to see that a child immediately looks for a child in his own age group at a meeting.

The Church of Latter-day Saints has had smart TV ads. During the civil rights struggle in the 1960s, a little girl was asked, “What does prejudice mean?”

Her answer revealed true wisdom: “I think it’s when someone is sick!”

A mother stood outside a school while children played. She asked a child, “Can you see Johnny?” The child said, “He’s got the red sweater on.” Johnny was black and the child was white.

When it comes to differences, children see things that adults don’t.

On children’s TV, several pairs of young children were asked, “What makes you two different?”

“She never stops talking,” says one child.

“I’m not good at dancing,” says another, and her friend blatantly says, “I am.”

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For adult eyes, there are much more obvious differences between the children. They are of different ethnicities, physical abilities and accents.

The biggest differences children see among themselves are things they like or don’t like.

“I used to not like lettuce, but I do now,” proclaims someone, cap on back, scruffy hair sticking out. His friend throws back: “I don’t like lettuce at all.”

It beautifully shows how no matter what social “category” they fall into, there are things they share, like likes to dance or hate lettuce.

Their answers are far from what adults would have said.

At first glance, each child looks quite different from their friend, but their answers have nothing to do with skin or hair color or race.

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It’s not that children don’t see these differences, they just don’t care. It is much more relevant to them what you like to play or eat.

Children seem to see all people equally: they don’t rank them by value, or care how they “should” behave, or what might not be “appropriate” to ask.

As a result, children say exactly what they see, without white lies from adults who are not fooling anyone.

“If you asked them outright if a child has a different skin color than them, they wouldn’t say ‘no,'” says Dr. Sally Palmer, a child development researcher.

“Children learn at a very young age how to categorize people. Around two years old, they start sorting people by gender and later by race and ethnicity.”

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She said that “in early childhood,” children develop a preference for people in the same social category as themselves.

Clinical psychologist Linda Blair, who specializes in families, children and adolescents, believes that prejudice is learned from the important figures in our lives. It is the result of what children hear and see around them. It’s that simple. Children are never born and decide whether social categories are good or bad.”

Between the ages of four and seven, children begin to copy the adult figures in their lives. Soon they wonder what social categories actually mean.

She thinks we could have a society where prejudice doesn’t exist “we just need to be more like kids,” she explains.

“Adults could learn from children instead of the other way around.”

Reach Gene Monin at


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