Children Blame Discrimination for Lack of Minority, Female U.S. President

A new study refutes the idea that children live in a color- and gender-blind world. The University of Texas at Austin study shows most elementary school-aged children know there has been no female, Black or Hispanic president of the United States. And the reason? Discrimination, according to the children studied, reports online magazine Science Daily.

Over a year before Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama entered the presidential race, researchers at UTA and the University of Kansas interviewed more than 200 children between the ages of five and 10 about their knowledge and beliefs about U.S. presidents. Researchers found the racially diverse group of children was aware women and minorities have been excluded from the U.S. presidency but thought people of both genders and races should be president, according to results published in the electronic journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy.

Researchers heard some surprising answers when children were asked why only White men have been president. One in four children said it is illegal for women and minorities to serve as president. And while a third of the children said voters’ racial and gender bias explained the lack of female and minority presidents, a third of the children also said women and minorities lacked the skills to be president.

The outcome of the presidential election might significantly influence children’s attitudes. Dr. Rebecca Bigler, a researcher and professor of psychology at UTA, told Science Daily: “If Obama loses his bid for the presidency, there may be little change in children’s attitudes, but it could fuel their perception that American voters are racially prejudiced … In contrast, if Obama wins, children may believe that exclusionary laws and racial prejudice no longer shape the outcomes of the presidential elections.”

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