Surely not in Preschool! Surely not. Surely.




Implicit Bias. 

It’s out there, and it’s not just for policemen anymore.

Turns out, it’s for black and white preschool teachers as well.  And if it’s a problem for the educators of our youngest children, it’s a problem for everyone.

I watched this video and it was a real eye-opener:

Then I looked up the study cited by Dr. Rosemarie Allen in the video.

Dr. Walter Gilliam, Associate Professor of Child Psychology and Psychiatry at Yale University and his team examined preschool teachers’ implicit biases about student behaviors.  Their findings were disturbing to say the least.

According to the study, both black and white preschool teachers may judge their pupils’ behaviors differently based on race.  The study indicated that black students, especially boys, were watched more closely for potential misbehaviors by both black and white teachers.

Perhaps black teachers kept a closer eye on black male children for different reasons than the white teachers did.

Maybe they know something many white people do not:  even the littlest black boys are at greater risk of becoming a victim of undeserved violence than white children. Therefore black kids, especially boys, can’t be allowed to make the natural mistakes all kids make as they learn to navigate the relationships that structure their world.

It’s just not safe.

To me, the reasons don’t matter anymore. They are symptoms that point to a far more pernicious disease.  The fact that the implicit bias embedded in our culture affects the lives of millions of children during their earliest, most formative years, is more important to me.

As Dr. Rosemarie indicates, we all have it.

(Want to check your own?  Go to for a free, confidential measure of your personal implicit biases).

Dr. Gilliam said, “Implicit bias is like the wind – you can’t see it, but you can sure see its effects.”

Militarization of the police.  Black and Blue lives in conflict.  Senseless violence.  An us -versus -them attitude that is swiftly turning American neighborhoods into war zones.

Implicit bias as it applies to race is a terminal disease.  It is a systematic evil and awareness alone won’t cut it, much less eradicate it.  However, awareness can lead to action that will attack this evil.  But it has to be the right kind of action.

Campaign Zero is a project that actively solicits citizen involvement to end police violence in America.  Because implicit bias runs deep, so must the solutions:  besides focusing on community involvement, improved police training methods, and increased awareness Campaign Zero includes comprehensive policy recommendations that federal, state and local officials must undertake to silence the guns.

The project also looks at existing policies and legislation to see what works, and what does not.  It tracks legislation that is pending in all states, and includes ways for people like you and me to demand action from our representatives on the local, state, and federal levels.

Self-awareness. Effective action.

Alone, they are not enough. Together, they constitute a knock-out punch that may just stop the madness.

Before its too late for the children  – and for us.



7 thoughts on “Surely not in Preschool! Surely not. Surely.

  1. In my opinion, this implicit bias has a direct correlation to the white privilege so prevalent in American culture. Both blacks and whites have been affected by this strictly American phenomenon of privilege. Blacks are overprotective of our children as we are now teaching our sons and daughters how to act submissive and non-threatening when stopped by police. Whites as the progenitors of american privilege find it hard to understand and distinguish an attitude so embedded in their history and cultural traditions. This a hard one, but not impossible. Your post very aptly describes the problem, now we just need to work on solutions that will help us all “just get along together as one human race.” This is my daily prayer.


    • Mine too. I’m on the hunt for things that will help the work along. Thanks for weighing in.

      I’m afraid implicit bias has long, deep evolutionary roots, so it will take a strong conscious effort to move on. We aren’t at risk from sabre toothed tigers anymore and we are now at risk more from our fear of the other, than of the other themselves.

      Very hard to break the instinctive patterns, but if we can curb our evolutionary tendencies to hunt down fat, and salt, and sugar we ought to be able to curb our xenophobic biases!


  2. Kathy,
    Thank you for drawing attention to this sad situation that cannot help but impact all of us. It is a sad part of human nature that when we expect to find something in another person, we will find it, even if we have to put it there ourselves. One wants to think that as older generations die off, new generations will not carry on the negative attitudes of the old, but that is fantasy if children are taught in preschool that race defines us and that we will be judged by our skin.
    I appreciate all the useful resources you embedded in your post. Very helpful in fighting this issue. Deborah


    • I think the Campaign Zero was a real find. I don’t deny the power of rhetoric but it’s good to have something we can actually DO together to make change happen.

      It is especially frightening, as you say, to see children swept up in this way of thinking. The earliest years of your life determine so much of who you will become. The grasp of the past is just so pernicious….

      I’m hoping just the realization of what is happening will put us ahead of the game, and fuel our determination to raise our voices against this oppression. All our children deserve so much better. Thanks for reading.


  3. Hi Kathy, thank you for taking on this issue and framing it as you did. I read an article about that study earlier this week and wept as I read it. To think of how black boys are subjected to this type of scrutiny, implicit as it is, from that early an age–setting the expectations from the start, is infuriating. My boys are in preschool and kindergarten, and I wonder about how they will be affected by such bias in our small southern town. Though they are light-skinned, we occasionally get looks from locals when out as a family because we are one of the few biracial families in the area. It’s distressing as a mother, and infuriating as a human being and Christian who longs, more than anything, for justice. Thanks for this, Kathy. I will be sharing it!


    • You are welcome, Jessica. I came across a headline referencing this study and simply could not believe it. I had to investigate it and found it to be woefully true.

      To me, this is such an injustice that it was hard to write about it without giving my anger free reign. I had to find a way to let the anger fuel the passion. Always a challenge.

      It seems you are right to be concerned for your boys. However, one of the things this class has taught me is that there IS a way to get our voices out there and effect change in corrupt institutions. That gives me hope.

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing this post!


  4. Your comments about how Black teachers might be watching out for Black children differently brought to mind Ta-Nahisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me.” Relaying a story about a time when he slipped away from his parents at a local park. “When they found me,” he writes, “Dad did what every parent I knew would have done — he reached for his belt…Later, I would hear it in Dad’s voice — ‘either I can beat him, or the police.'” How do we prepare children for the world? As a parent to white boys, I ask this question and struggle with it daily. What kind of world am I preparing them for? What kind of world do I hope they help create? It can feel like our options are to either prepare them for the current world and therefore reinforce implicit bias, or we can actively dismantle bias which may leave them unprepared to deal with some of the realities of the world. I know it’s not a binary problem, but it can make me feel trapped.


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