British film director Steve McQueen said it was " upsetting " after a survey found one in five black children thought their skin colour would make it more difficult for them to be successful.
Research commissioned by BBC's Newsround programme found 21% of black children felt their skin colour would make it harder to succeed in the future, compared with just 2% of white children and 13% of Asian origin.
The survey of more than 1,600 eight to 14-year-olds also found nine out of 10 black children aspired to go to university, while less than three quarters (72%) of white children had the same goal.
Less than half (40%) of black children thought their teachers would describe them as clever, compared with 46% of white children, 39% of Asian and 47% of mixed or other origins.
McQueen, who directed the Oscar-winning film 12 Years A Slave, told Newsround: "When I was at school myself there was this situation where black children were not deemed as intelligent or deemed to be able to go on to do anything of any real purpose. The circle has to be broken, it's upsetting to think that it hasn't.
"It's about belief, filling peoples lungs with ambition and possibilities, when you narrow people's possibilities then they become narrow, when you widen their possibilities they become open and giving them the idea that things are possible, because it's the truth."
The research by Childwise was carried out to look at black children's aspirations and will feature on Newsround programmes throughout the week.
The survey involved 276 black children, 640 white children and 711 from other ethnic minority backgrounds.
Among the results, a quarter (25%) of white children, 30% of black children and 24% of Asian children said they wanted to be a footballer when they were older. Meanwhile, 27% of black youngsters and 21% who were white said they wanted to be a musician or rapper.