African-Airierican Parent-Child Communication About Racial Derogation
This chapter examines communication between African-American parents and children about racially negative interpersonal encounters. In particular, the focus is on episodes of racial derogation-a term used here to include expressions of disparagement, depreciation, or low opinion directed at an individual because of membership in a racial group. Group derogation may express overt enmity, or it may casually relay a message to members of the group that they are disrespected. Racial derogation, as with any form of group derogation, is potentially harmful to its individual and group targets. As a communication problem, derogation disrupts interactions in the immediate environment and undermines relationships in the larger society. When preventive efforts fail and if incidents of derogatory communication are not addressed, their negative messages may be internalized by anyone who is exposed to them-the targeted person, the derogator, or witnesses to the occasion. Although researchers disagree about the age range for children’s internalization of racial stereotypes (Holmes, 1995; Spencer, 1982), children may imitate the derogating behavior they observe, especially when it is unchallenged. For that reason, racial derogation is an issue that should be addressed by parents of all races.