“What is the right age to begin teaching kids about race?”

I was recently asked this question by a colleague. This is my detailed response, which I think belongs here…

This does not have a simple answer, but there is a lot of research looking at the psychological development of children with respect to race. For the most part, the research shows that children can distinguish between racial groups around 3-4 years. That is to say that they realize that they look different from other children. This is the same age when they are beginning to understand categories (e.g., colors, objects) and are often excited to point out that they know the difference. More importantly, by the age of 5-7 years, children have learned that they can use race to bully other children. We would not go as far as to say that these children are “racist,” but they have learned tht they can use racism to make fun of other children. Therefore, when is the right age to begin talking to children about race? When they begin to recognize race at around age 4-5Here is a great summary of the research regarding talking to children about race and how the fear of adults can affect children.

It is worthwhile to note that we begin teaching children about racialized history in first or second grade with the sanitized safe strategy of “Black History Month,” but in these lesson plans, we do not acknowledge the negative aspects of race. Although I do not think that it is appropriate to teach second graders about lynching, there must be something in between. If we refuse to talk about these things, then we have examples of children deploying blackface because they want to dress up like Martin Luther King Jr. We need to teach children about their own history and why certain behaviors are historically and socially inappropriate. For the child in the story above, he wanted to dress up like MLK, because MLK is an important historical figure; MLK is also Black, so in order to dress up like him, he needs to paint his face black. We would not blame the child for not knowing better, but we might blame the parents for letting the child leave the house…

This also connects to another important difference in racialized conversations. Parents of color on average begin talking to their children about around age 5-7, whereas White parents talk to their children about race around 12-14 if at all. In this difference, we also observe a difference in need and ability to talk about race; for parents of color, a child coming home from first or second grade crying because someone called them “black” or “yellow” on the playground demands that this be discussed. Check out this great video from Rita Moreno talking about the scene in West Side Story where the White boys mocked her Puerto Rican-ness and the wound it reopened; “I knew from a very young age that I was a ‘spic’.”

Posted in Blog Posts, Classes & Lectures | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Movies with Dustin Sweet

Dustin Sweet, Independent Animation Producer and Artist, joins my COM107 class to talk about his experiences in navigating the entertainment industry and words of advice for students who want to make movies.

Posted in Classes & Lectures | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psychology of Selfies: A TEDxSyracuseUniversity Talk

My TEDx talk on the Psychology of Selfies has been posted! Check it out, share it with your friends. Tag your own #healthieselfie!

Check out more selfie psychology with the teaser posts leading up to the talk…

Posted in Charisse is Cool | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Increasing Individualism in Youth Created Music Videos on YouTube (2007-2013)


Congratulations to Steven Kendrat, a recent MA graduate from the TV, Radio, and Film Department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University on having his masters thesis accepted at AEJMC in August!


Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has provided a unique venue for anyone to share content and comment on the content of others, resulting in more user generated content (UGC), especially among teens. The current longitudinal trend study analyzes demographic, production, and narrative trends in the emerging genre of youth created music videos using a sample of 100 videos uploaded to YouTube in 2007 and 2013. Compared to videos posted in 2007, youth created music videos posted in 2013 featured younger and less diverse casts, and more complicated editing techniques; they were also more likely to feature single actors and celebrate the self, mimicking the recent emergence of “selfie culture.” These findings are discussed with respect to YouTube’s role in reducing barriers to entry and providing a virtual space for youth oriented content communities that thrive on engagement and social networking as strategies of identity development.

Kendrat, S.J., & Corsbie-Massay, C.L. Increasing Individualism in Youth Created Music Videos on YouTube (2007-2013). To Be Presented at Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in San Francisco, CA; August, 2015.

Posted in Advanced Work in Media Studies, Classes & Lectures, Research | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment