Do we make unconscious judgments about people based on skin color? And, for the children involved in our landmark study, did their answers to our questions change, depending on race?
Our ongoing "Kids on Race" series has sought to locate the origins of racial issues that so often seem native to the American experience. We decided that by talking directly with children– innocent, impressionable, and honest– as they are slowly being introduced to society, we might learn how prejudice can take hold of young minds... and from this early point, despite our best intentions, sometimes never let go.
Tune in to CNN at 8 and 10 p.m. ET and on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET for AC360's special series.
For the past year, Anderson Cooper and the producers at AC360° worked on a project that explores how children form opinions on race. The purpose of "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture" was to find out more about when they notice race, what informs their views and how all of that differs for black and white children.
We commissioned an original study and partnered with renowned child psychologist and University of Maryland professor Dr. Melanie Killen. Dr. Killen's role was not just to design and implement the study, but also to help us analyze the findings so we could inform parents and teachers.
Anderson wrote in his blog, "I hope this study helps us all consider how our perceptions of race impact our thoughts and behaviors, and also what messages adults are passing down to children." The data we gathered is attention-grabbing, but what's equally fascinating is hearing the raw, unfiltered thoughts of kids as young as six. Their honest comments along with the results paint a picture of how far we've come in teaching the next generation about equality and acceptance - and how much farther we have to go.
All week we've presented the study to you, and in return you've given us your reactions and shared your personal stories. Thank you for contributing to this ongoing national discussion on Twitter, our Facebook and Google Plus page, our blog, and iReport.
In 360's ground-breaking study on kids and race, teens talked candidly about interracial dating. What they said begged for a response from their parents, so Anderson and Soledad O'Brien sat down with their parents.
Editor's note: Tune in to AC360 tonight for the surprising results of a groundbreaking new study on children and race at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.
(CNN) – Luke, a white seventh grader, believes his parents would not be supportive if he dated an African-American girl. "Honestly I don't think my parents would be too happy because ... if you marry a black girl, you're connected to their family now," he said, adding, "and who knows what her family is really like?"
Jimmy, a black seventh grader, recounted that after he had several white girlfriends, his parents seemed to interpret it as an affront to his own race. "They said, 'Why not your own kind?' because all my girls have been white," he said, adding, "it's not like they were like, 'You need to choose a black girl,' it's just they were asking me why I like white girls and I was just like, 'there's no ... specific reason.' "
Their stories highlight a divide not between the races, but between the generations. Both teens participated in an Anderson Cooper 360° study on children and race. Many students reported discouragement of interracial dating from their parents, or those of their friends, with reactions ranging from wariness to outright forbiddance.
Editor's note: Elizabeth Mayo is a digital producer for CNN's "Early Start" and "Starting Point." All this week, AC360° airs the special series "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture" at 8 and 10 p.m. ET. Thursday's installment will focus on interracial dating.
It all started on my second date with Alex. It was 1997 and on a whim we went into Manhattan to see the ball drop on New Year's Eve in Times Square. The closest we could get was 55th Street and Seventh Avenue. That's pretty far away, but we could still see the glittering ball touching the sky. He was 19, I was 17.
For him, I was his childhood dream girl: I'm tall, have curly brown hair and I play cello, so I was the real-life version of Sigourney Weaver's character in "Ghostbusters" (his favorite movie). To me, he was smart, doting and hilarious.
On what had to be the coldest night in the history of the ball drop, we shivered next to each other waiting patiently, with a few thousand spectators, to get one year closer to the millennium. At midnight, the ball dropped and the crowd erupted.
Against the backdrop of the Trayvon Martin case, CNN is taking a look at race in America. We asked readers to post short video comments answering the question of whether racism still exists and where it comes from, in response to the study commissioned by AC360° to explore children's perception of race.
We got a number of fascinating responses that branched in three distinct directions.
1. We need to look at the black community's leadership
Jerome Almon of Detroit says he used to be a political science lecturer. He says the black community needs new leadership and is not served well by the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Russell Simmons and Spike Lee. He said he believes these men should be viewed with more skepticism.
"How do Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton make a living?" He asked. "You see them after a tragedy takes place."Almon went on to say that he believes these people have little credibility with black youths.
Editor's note: Get a behind-the-scenes look at how Anderson Cooper and AC360° producers created a study exploring kids' views on race, and tune in tonight at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.
It had been a while since our production team hung out in elementary or middle schools, but while some things change, others remain the same. Some kids were still cliquey, bells still rang when it was time to change classes and students still walked in single file lines. But students today seem to be more affected by the constantly changing world around them, in a way many from my generation weren't. There was talk of bullying, Martin Luther King and equality - and those comments came from both 6-year-olds and 13-year-olds. From the mouths of babes!
Spending time with young people is always invigorating. However, for our team, working 12 straight hours, starting at 4 and 5 am, left us depleted by the end of some days. Also, we were on an early morning school schedule which is something members of our late-working AC360 staff aren't used to normally.
AC360° hired renowned child psychologist and University of Maryland professor Dr. Melanie Killen to design and implement our study that examines children's perceptions of race. The results are the basis for Anderson Cooper's special series "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture." We asked Dr. Killen to highlight key findings, offer advice to parents on how and when to teach about equality and shed light on the thinking behind her methodology.
Watch the series of Q&A videos to get deeper insight on the year-long investigation.
In part two of Anderson Cooper's special report, kids give honest feedback on racial and social issues.
Dr. Killen tells Anderson Cooper and Soledad O'Brien how adults need to approach the topic of race with their children.