Cops and Robbers (and Stereotypes)

April 22nd, 2012 | Categories: Race

Funny story.

My husband goes to the Police museum with our children where they have a kids entertainment area with pretend cop cars, police station, emergency vehicles, dress up clothes, and gear. This museum is a century old precinct that was converted once it outlived its original purpose. Visiting it is like going back in time a hundred years.

It hosts parties, and on this day a group of parents are celebrating one boy’s birthday. Nearly all the children there are boys near to his age, with the exception of one girl. The boys immediately take to their surroundings and act out their police fantasies. They chase each other around, yelling phrases like “freeze” and “you’re going to jail.” The girl sits in a police car alone.

The boys, all competing to be police, need to find someone to play robber, and they single out one boy. For the 20 minutes my husband observed these kids, children kept selecting the same child to be the robber. A couple of kids surround him and tell him he’s going to jail. The boys would play fight, and then move on to another activity. A few minutes later a different group of boys then find the same child and make him the criminal to chase around.

Sometimes, the stereotypes that get communicated let us know that times really have not changed in one hundred years. Of the twenty kids playing cops and robbers, the one continually selected to play the robber is the only black kid.

Funny story, well kind of, but definitely no joke.

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