Black Children Misperceived

We know from previous research that white police officers (and other white adults) tend to view Black adolescents and adults as more dangerous and threatening than white teens and adults. Now, there is new research that suggests that prospective teachers may also misperceive Black children.

The findings of a new study was published online in Emotion, an American Psychological Association journal.

The study involved 178 prospective teachers from education programs at three Southeastern universities. All participants viewed short video clips of 72 children ages 9 to 13 years old. The children’s faces expressed one of six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise or disgust. The video clips were evenly divided among boys and girls as well as Black children and white children.

Although the prospective teachers were somewhat accurate at identifying the children’s emotions, they made some mistakes that revealed patterns. Boys of both races were misperceived as angry more often than Black or white girls. Also, Black boys and girls were more frequently misperceived as angry than were white children. Black boys elicited the most anger bias.

This study is the first to show how what might be called anger bias may extend from police officers to teachers – and their students. Lead researcher. Amy G. Halberstadt, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, commented that “This anger bias can have huge consequences by increasing Black children’s experience of not being ‘seen’ or understood by their teachers and then feeling like school is not for them.”  She also stated that this kind of bias might lead to Black children being disciplined unfairly and suspended more often from school. This can have long-term ramifications for Black youth.

Dr. Halberstadt said that anger bias against Black children can lead to many negative outcomes. The most immediate outcomes found in other studies is that Black children are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than white children. This has been a concern for those who point out the negative consequences for children of color in the School-to-Prison Pipeline. It is also very possible that Black children’s negative experiences at school may contribute to the disparate achievement gap between Black and white youth that has been documented across the United States.

“Even when people are motivated to be anti-racist, we need to know the specific pathways by which racism travels, and that can include false assumptions that Black people are angry or threatening,” Halberstadt stated in an interview. She added: “Over the last few weeks, many people are waking up to the pervasive extent of systemic racism in American culture, not just in police practices but in our health, banking and education systems,” Halberstadt said. “Learning more about how these problems become embedded in our thought processes is an important first step.

To read the source of this report, go to here.

Written by James Windell, MA

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