Profs study ‘ethnic-racial socialization’ in White families, expand upon Robin DiAngelo’s frameworks

Citing DiAngelo 10 times, the research team claims White parents' efforts to teach children about racism are insufficient.

The study found that an overwhelming majority of parents want their children to be aware of privilege and racism.

Leaning on the research of critical race theorist Robin DiAngelo, two professors examined the ways in which White people teach their children about racism.

In their study “From Kindness and Diversity to Justice and Action: White Parents’ Ethnic–Racial Socialization Goals,” California State University-Northridge professor Virginia Huynh, Macalester College professor Cari Gillen-O’Neel, University of California-Los Angeles graduate student Taylor Hazelbaker, and University of Michigan graduate student Asya Harrison explained that “parents of color regularly attempt to provide information to prepare their children for racialized experiences, such as pressure to assimilate to the dominant.” The writers call this process “ethnic-racial socialization” (ERS).

The professors cited critical race theorist Robin DiAngelo ten times in their study.

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“White people benefit from the racial status quo, but for decades, parents of white children have been silent about race,” Huynh told CSUN Today. “Now, racism is at the top of America’s agenda, and white parents are hungry for guidance on how to address racial equity. Understanding how white parents practice ethnic-racial socialization is an important step toward racial justice.”

The study states that “racialized events such as Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about people of color throughout his presidency and the Charlottesville White nationalist rally in 2017 may have spurred White parents into more ‘color-conscious’ goals for their children’s ERS.”

Accordingly, the scholars sought to “describe White parents’ ERS goals.” Recruiting parents of children from kindergarten through eighth grade who attended a school with “social justice” as a part of its mission, they conducted interviews to discern the attitudes of the parents toward race-related discussions with their children.

Parents in the sample overwhelmingly expressed a willingness to speak with their children about racism. For instance, the researchers found that 77% of the parents “wanted their children to be aware of their privilege.” Though 74% of parents “wanted their children to understand something about racism,” the scholars noticed that “some parents did not mention systems and only wanted their children to have a general awareness of racism.”

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Nevertheless, the researchers hinted that the parents’ efforts were insufficient.

“As expected, goals of warning children to be wary of interracial interactions were rare in this sample,” they wrote. “However, consistent with the idea of White fragility, some parents wanted to protect their children from negative emotions associated with racial discussions, and some parents wanted their children to avoid the appearance of being racist (more so than avoiding actually being racist).”

“Parents in our sample had clear ERS goals for their children, and although many of these goals addressed the cultural norm of Whiteness and how racism, power, and privilege operate in the United States, many goals failed to address these important issues,” they concluded. “Such omissions may be counterproductive for parents who want to raise anti-racist children.”

Campus Reform reached out to CSU-Northridge, Macalester College, Huynh, and Gillen-O’Neel for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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