Babies Inherently Identify the “Other”

Babies naturally know what the “other” is. As race is a massive issue in the US right now, I think this is a fairly pertinent vignette. Twice now in my time in China, I’ve had this happen to me. There’s a baby/child/toddler and they are just happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world. Bouncing. Bobbing. Hopping. Humming. And then they catch a glimpse at my face and just break down in tears, bawling to their parents for help because of the scary laowai. It’s cute and I don’t mind in the slightest. It’s kinda funny, so long as the parents recognize what happened by giving an acknowledging smile (Which they duly did. Cheers.)

But here’s the thing I got out of it. There’s a cliche that kids don’t understand race. They have to glean them from social cues and/or they are taught them by their parents. To which I say: bullshit. Kids understand the concept of the “other.” When those two very young kids made eye contact with me, they knew full well I was something very different from what they were. It wasn’t taught, as they couldn’t speak in complete sentences, never mind understand intercontinental race relations. They just knew immediately I wasn’t Chinese.

My point is that race and all its implications in today’s world should be taught. Kids who cry upon seeing a white person aren’t wrong per se in their raw emotions. Something has just upset their world order. They just need to be taught what they are experiencing. And if you grow up in a place that doesn’t teach the value of diversity, or in a place that lacks even one iota of “otherness”, then…well…we could potentially have problems.


Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments below!

Like what you’re reading on China? Check out some other related articles in: The China Chronicles!

(image source for featured image)

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