Friday, June 30, 2017

Georgetown Law Report: Black Girls Perceived as Less Innocent

Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality released a disturbing report, Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, which revealed that adults perceive black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than white girls of the same age (especially age 5 to 14). It expanded upon a 2014 study on adult perceptions of black boys. But the new study differs in how it examines adults' views of black girls and innocence.
Researchers surveyed 325 adults from various racial, educational and ethnic backgrounds from across the U.S. They used a scale of childhood innocence that included items associated with stereotypes of black women and girls. One survey asked about adults' perceptions of black girls, while another survey asked adults about their perceptions of white girls.

The new report concluded that adults surveyed thought:

  • Black girls seem older than white girls of the same age.
  • Black girls need to be supported less than white girls.
  • Black girls know more about adult topics than white girls.
  • Black girls need less protection than white girls.
  • Black girls know more about sex than white girls.
The report has several implications on the status of black women in the United States. If adults perceive black girls as needing less help, then adults will overlook the barriers that black girls often encounter in society. Black girls also face emotional and social challenges. Much of the adultification of black girls have to do with lingering negative stereotypes that depicted black women and girls as aggressive, defiant, loud, and oversexualized. Like black boys, black girls are not exempted from high suspension and expulsion rates. This fuels the school-to-prison pipeline problem which has blacks face a higher likelihood of incarceration than their white peers. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), black women are also more likely to have higher student loan debt than other races. The national conversation often depicts race from a black male perspective and gender from a white women's perspective. It is time for society to recognize how racism and sexism shapes the lived experiences of black women and girls. Black feminist scholars, such as Kimberle Crenshaw and Patricia Hills Collins, were pioneers in creating a body of literature that explained not only the importance of intersectionality but also the need for effective policy interventions that help black women financially provide for their families and save for retirement. Black girls deserve to have a normal childhood.

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