From childhood, Black girls are labelled as ‘loud’ and ‘disruptive’. Black girls are seen as less innocent; more grown-up than their white counterparts- even if they’re just being kids. Therefore, Black girls are disproportionately punished at schools. From 2013–14 black girls made up 20% of the preschool population but were 54% of preschool children with at least one suspension. A National Women’s Law Centre report revealed how dress codes usually unfairly target Black girls from their hair to bodies. Dr Joy Harden Bradford (psychologist) explained how Black girls are viewed as ‘little women’, putting the weight of being emotionally mature and independent on their shoulders at such a young age. She also says adultification means Black girls are given more household chores. Many young Black girls are hypersexualised and called ‘fast’ or ‘easy’ if they wear clothes that are ‘revealing’, robbing them of their innocence- adding to the scary idea that ‘she was asking for it.’
A Georgetown Law Centre on Poverty and Inequality study discovered data that participants believe Black girls need less nurturing, protection, support, and comfort. Many believed Black girls are more independent and know more about adult topics, like sex. Adults are less empathetic to Black girls than their white friends. This is incredibly concerning. When these ideas spread into the education system and juvenile justice system, it means these girls suffer harsher punishments and have ‘fewer leadership and mentorship opportunities in schools.’ Black girls are 20% more likely than white girls to be formally petitioned. They are 5x more likely to be suspended and 2.7x more likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system. When a Black girl makes a mistake or misbehaves, it is often viewed as intentional and when they need support, they are often not given it, as they are meant to be ‘independent’.
“Black women and girls really attributed the source of this to the historical roots of slavery and the intersectionality of being black and a woman. These issues didn’t come out of the blue,” Jamilia Blake, a co-author of the report and a professor says.
Dr Bradford says it is important to keep ‘little girls engaged in play as long as possible.’ We need to be aware of adultification and understand our words have significance. Ask yourself if you have played a part in the adultification of Black girls. If you see someone intentionally, or unintentionally adultifying a Black girl (for example by using language like ‘aggressive’, ‘angry’ or ‘noisy’) call them out. If you see any double standards, point them out.
Written by me
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Originally published at https://intersectnews.wixsite.com on July 31, 2020.