Children are aware of race and racism, Sesame Workshop survey says

The Sesame Workshop conducted a study last June right after George Floyd was murdered and then again eight months later asking 147 families from numerous backgrounds and races these questions, according to Tanya Haider, the executive vice president of strategy and research.

"What are your hopes? What are your fears? What are you thinking about? What's top of mind?" Haider said, "because we wanted to see unprompted how these children responded." 

And what they found was this.

"Children are much more aware of race and racism than we give them credit for," Haider said.  

She said what the study discovered was eye-opening. 

"Basically 9 out of 10 kids said that people are treated differently because of the color of their skin," Haider said. "That's a pretty significant finding."

The children were between the ages of 6 and 11. 

But the finding is not a surprise to Dr. Christiana Ibilola Awosan, a licensed therapist whose practice focuses on families of color.

"Because they watch media, right, and because they are also around their families and their friends," Awosan said, "so they're taking in messages whether it is negative messages about racial differences or positive messages."

She said parents need to talk openly about race with their children and not shush them or tell them to be quiet in public if the child recognizes that someone is Black, white, Hispanic, or wears a turban, for example, and says it out loud. 

"Not to make it as something that is bad, as something that you need to be quiet about," Awosan said.

Instead, she said, parents should talk about it in a positive way. And there are other steps parents can take.

"The books that you're reading to the kids, the music that they are listening to, the TV shows or the movies they are watching — even the toys that they are playing with," Awosan said. "Making sure it's a very diverse racial group of individuals, of people, of stories about other people and not just their own race."