Black and White Now: Kids Talk Race

"GMA" examines race by visiting schoolchildren in the anchors' hometowns.

ByABC News via GMA logo
March 30, 2009, 9:04 PM

March 31, 2009— -- With a black first family and fewer people citing racism as a "big problem,"these days, how much have the country's race relations changed?

In the last part of a three-part series called "Black and White Now," "Good Morning America" anchors Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts visit their respective hometowns to see how grade school children view race. Click here to watch the first part in the series and click here for the second part of our series about race relations.

"GMA" is revisiting a conversation it began 10 years ago that started with young children in Alabama. The goal: to determine how perceptions of race have changed. So anchor Robin Roberts headed to her hometown, Pass Christian, Miss., and anchor Diane Sawyer visited her hometown of Louisville, Ky.

The anchors talked to children between the ages of 6 and 10.

The first change the women noticed was that this time around most of the kids didn't want to talk a lot about skin color.

"We like to talk about school, our sports," one boy said.

A girl told Robin that people are happy that discrimination doesn't exist in the same way as it did in the past.

Though the children recognized the different colors of their peers, it didn't seem to matter.

"Do you think, when you have a different color skin than someone else that it makes you different?" Robin asked the group.

" No," the kids said in unison.

In Diane's hometown, she noticed that today's children insisted they had friendships with people of all kinds, while 10 years ago, they were living witnesses to the racial divide.

"I have a little of black friends. Black people don't really like me that much," a girl name Caitlin said a decade ago.

When Diane asked why she thought black people didn't like her, she said, "I don't know, because they never play with me. Only that little boy across the corner. He comes to my house sometimes. He's just never been inside."

And also 10 years back, Robin found a similar sentiment from a student name LeTieri, who professed her dislike of white people.

"Because they're messy," she said.

One girl at the time even said that sometimes she worries when she's with a white person. "That you might get scared that they might hit you," she said.

"Something I'm thinking that they're going to ask me a lot of questions that I barely can think of," another boy said.

And the response from the white kids 10 years ago was even scarier.

"What do you worry about if you're with a black person?" Diane asked.

"They'd murder me," one white boy responded and other white students agreed.

Another white boy said he was worried about black kids "stealing."

During that same time both white and black children said white people were prettier and richer. But today, their views include blacks.

"Who's the richest person in the world?" Robin asked.

A myriad responses followed.

"Barack Obama."

"The bank people."

"People that own mansions."

"Will Smith?"

"Ray Charles."

"Michael Jordan."

"Janet Jackson."

But in 2009, white kids' lists of role models also included blacks.


One student said Michelle Obama was the prettiest person to look at.

And finally one more question, about any racism they still see today.

"Do you think, though, that there's still some places in this country where it's difficult for black people?" Robin asked.

The group said yes and one student even cited school.

"Some white people says that they hate Barack Obama because he's black," one girl said.

And though the children expressed disappointment and fear about such thoughts, both groups soon were happy again -- expressing one hope that a rainbow of kids can show grown-ups how to learn, have parties and live together.

" I'm glad race is over," one child said. "Race is over? What is race?"

Race for a Cab: When Hailing a Ride Isn't So Black and White

In the second part of a three-part series called "Black and White Now," "Good Morning America" tackles racial profiling. Click here to see the first part in the series about race relations.

It's a highly publicized issue with a highly visible face. Nearly a decade ago, actor Danny Glover took on the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, saying five yellow cabs in a single day refused to stop for him because he was black.

"I don't expect to have a taxi. I've been conditioned to think that someone is not going to stop for me," Glover said of the racial profiling incident.

His formal complaint sparked a nationwide debate about subtle and not so subtle racism in public places like on city streets, in restaurants and shopping malls.

That was November 1999. "GMA" wanted to see how much things had changed in 2009 and enlisted the help of well-known black attorney Christopher Darden, who was the prosecutor in O.J. Simpson's murder trail.

"Obviously there are situations where almost all of us can all agree that someone's actions are racially motivated, but racism and discrimination are typically practiced in a subtle way," said Darden, who is now a successful defense attorney.

With "GMA's" cameras rolling, Darden was easily able to hail a New York City cab in broad daylight.

"I got the first cab and there was a second one that was trying to squeeze that one out of the way," he said.

But his luck changed when day turned to night. After the sun went down, two cabs passed him. The third cab, which was driven by a black man, stopped and picked him up.

"There you have it. I guess it's true what they say, 'After dark, it's hard to catch a cab to Harlem,'" Darden said.