By Jenise Jackson
Blog Content Contributor
I believe many of us can find ourselves ticked off by certain things we come across on the internet. Thanks to social media, I have found a new annoyance to add onto my long list of grievances. Last month, New York Daily News posted an article that discussed research that states adults views young black girls as less innocent than young white girls.
Oh how society’s ignorance irritates my soul…
According to the study, “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood”, conducted by Georgetown University, adults view black girls as adult-like and more sexually experimented than their white peers. Now this study was based upon a survey of 325 “racially and ethnically diverse” adults (74 percent were white), from a variety of educational levels from across the United States. For those who do not know, viewing children as more mature because of social stereotypes is known as adultification. The adultification of young black females stem from the negative stereotypes that have been placed upon black women. So now, I know you are looking around and asking “What are the stereotypes against black women?” Well, if you really had to ask, the most common ones go something like: “black girls are too loud,” or “black women are ghetto.” Nonetheless, I cannot forget about girls of color being hyper-sexualized at young ages, which can be seen through mainstream media.
The long-term affect here is that due to the adultification of these young girls, it leads adults to believe that they require less nurturing and protection because they seem so adult-like. Consequently, this lack of love and/or respect is harmful to their growth as they become older and into their adult lives.
I believe it is true that this social construct against black girls, hinders them from enjoying the same childhood experiences that are afforded to all other little girls. Your childhood is the period in your life for development and you need that nurturing and support to grow. However, the perceptions of black girls causes them to essentially ‘mature’ before they are actually ready to. Our public school systems are another contributing factor to the adultification in America as well. Have you ever noticed that black girls tend to be disciplined more constantly and severely than others? The study showed that stricter punishment for minor infractions such as dress code violations, disobedience and disruptive behaviors are linked to the biases people hold against black girls. That harsher discipline factor can also be linked to the fact that black females account for 28 percent of referrals to law enforcement and 37 percent of arrests.
Historically, the needs and issues of black girls have been neglected. When you look at the world around you, especially in the media, you are repeatedly exposed to those negative stereotypes that have labeled black women for so long now. Dear adults, take that and assume that all black women act like that and all black girls will do the same. It is very challenging for black girls to navigate through their young years with this cloud of assumptions following them wherever they go. Just because a girl is black does not mean that the only thing she will be ready to do is fight or that she knows more about or has even experienced sexual relations. The fact that adults actually think this way about black girls is frustrating and impacting black girls more than we know. It is time for a change honestly. We need to start preserving the childhood of all races. We could accomplish this by pursuing social reforms and working to get our legislators and policymakers to examine the imbalances black girls face in our schools and juvenile justice systems.
The essence of childhood is simply innocence. Children should be expected to be immature and make mistakes that can be learned from. Of course there are kids who are rebellious, the ones who do things their way because they think they are grown. But instead of trying to determine who those kids are based off their skin tone, adults should try determining that by the character of the children because it definitely isn’t just black girls.
Featured illustration by Makenzie Knight.