Hasbro Helping Make Racist Babies?

Recently on Fox News – “Hasbro claims babies as young as three months old can show racial preferences… Three, four and five years old can show pro-white biases.”

This blog post is going to deal with the topic of race and might be triggering to some people. Please read at your own discretion.

Project Veritas, (no, I won’t link to them) have been promoting David Johnson, the Hasbro CRT whistleblower, who believes that their training shows critical race theory (Wikipedia Link). Hasbro apparently used a training video from The Conscious Kid, an organization focused on “promoting healthy racial identity development in youth.” He’s been on Fox News and making the rounds in the conservative media circuit.

I wouldn’t normally write about this, but a close connection of mine decided to post about this on their social media, talking about how great it is that someone is standing up to Hasbro and talking about how ridiculous this all is basically saying “of course children aren’t racist!”

I can’t speak to critical race theory, as I’ve only just learned the term, so I can’t say why anyone would be for or against it, but I do feel like this discussion is being done in a very combative way. I am also aware that I can’t really be an expert in race or racism as a white male in Canada where I’ve been given many advantages through my life.

First off, I don’t think anyone should be calling kids, especially under speaking age, racist. I feel like being racist requires some malevolent intent that most children hopefully don’t have. I feel like racial bias isn’t racism, but racial bias can become racism. In The Conscious Kid video, at least the portions that I was able to see, when they talked about racial preference and bias, it was done in a fairly reasonable and respectful way that often avoided more confrontational, in-your-face, terms when discussing this sensitive topic. I think they did quite well considering how emotionally triggering the data could certainly be.

As for what I feel happens with children, I feel like there is a system of inherited or evolved safety in maintaining what someone is used to. Sorting like with like and drawing from previous experiences to determine the potential outcome of a situation. Without a history of experience to draw from, a new situation, no matter what it is, might generate some confusion or concern.

Even as an adult, I know that when I’m in a situation where I have to do something that feels new, I get anxious and I’d prefer to avoid that feeling. So if young children are only exposed to people with pale skin through their family, their friends, their toys, their cartoons, and more, then they might find anyone with another complexion as different and feel some unease.

I don’t think it’s horrible for toy companies to create products to help parents reduce this by allowing them to more easily expose their children to people from different backgrounds, complexions, and body types or abilities. And I want to make sure I take a moment to make the point that I feel that these issues extend beyond race.

I grew up in two places, one where I was in a population that was divided between those that lived on the Haida Gwaii reserve and a military base of primarily white people, and another in the countryside where there were almost no people of colour or even anyone outside of an Anglo-centric cultural background. Potentially, in part because of that, I can’t say that I don’t have some small preference to choose to surround myself with people that look, talk, and act like me. I know this about myself, and actively try to fight that to be more inclusive and more diverse. I can’t say I’m always super successful at it, but when confronted with it, I do try to learn as much as I can. I’ve had some people be fairly supportive in helping me better understand how the world works for people that were born in different countries, at different income levels or different colours of skin.

Some quotes from David Johnson’s presentation with Project Veritas:

  • “Teaching people to segregate by race… is wrong.”
  • “Introduces children to racial bias at an early age before they understand what race is.”
  • “To just state categorically that at five years old, your children are as racist as the adults, which is implying the parents are also racist in some manner…”
  • “Teaching children to have a racial mindset.”
  • “We are not supposed to be a society where the black people only play with the black toys and the white people play with the white toys.”
  • “Why are they trying to see the world in terms of race?”
  • “They need to stop judging others based on their race.”

The idea implied both in this interview and in many comments I see on this whole thing is that children are colourblind when it comes to race and isn’t true. There are many peer reviewed studies that prove this. Check out all of the references listed on this PDF – Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race.

This whole thing shows a twist in the narrative. They are using pro-diversity training as a tool to create a story that Hasbro is promoting racism. He changes their intent by using statements that are meant to make us feel defensive.

As a primarily white person, I don’t want to believe I am racist. I don’t want to believe that society is racist. It makes me sad that there is still racism in this world, but David Johnson’s preferred strategy is one of ignoring the research and pretending race doesn’t exist as a way to solve racism, and I feel like that’s super flawed.

Ideally, we would live in a world where character matters more than complexion, but we aren’t there yet. And I think it would be a major step backwards for corporations to not try to promote the social good by creating products and services to support a more progressive, diverse, and inclusive society. Our society hasn’t matured enough to avoid discussions of racial bias and racial advantages, and so I think it’s disingenuous for him to promote the idea that character should be the most important thing especially when children under speaking age only have simple ways of determining character and are still running on a very basic set of rules to understand the world around them.

We should be applauding corporations for trying to think about race when creating products and services. We should be taking the opportunity to support the products that help parents open up their children to the wonderful diversity that our world has to offer. We should be working to avoid combative language that causes people to recoil rather than face societal differences. We should be constantly having more conversations about how society works for all involved and what we can do to make it more equitable by bringing down boundaries.

This is a difficult topic, and again, I am no expert. I just feel like we all need to make sure we aren’t driving our society’s direction based on defensiveness and fear, instead of fact and research. I look forward to learning more about this topic in the future so I can better educate myself and create opportunities for discussion with those around me so we can hopefully build a better society.

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