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Black girls viewed less innocent than white girls

DISHEARTENING: Report suggests adults view young black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than white girls starting as young as five-years-old

A NEW report has found that adults view young black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than white girls starting as young as five-years-old.

Conducted by Georgetown Law’s Centre on Poverty and Inequality, “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood” is the first of its kind to focus on girls (back in 2014 a report was released that focused on young black boys which discovered that, unlike their white counterparts, black boys are viewed as older and suspected of crimes starting at age 10).

According to those that participated in the report, black girls need less nurturing and protection, as well as need to be supported and comforted less than young white girls. The report also found that participants assumed black girls know more about adult topics and sex.

Most of the adults surveyed had a high school diploma or higher but those facilitating the report found the biggest differences in the ways adults view children in the age brackets 5-9 and 10-14.

The report also does a good job of contextualizing how this phenomenon has its roots in America’s racist history, highlighting how black femininity was defined in three ways in the south during slavery (Sapphire, Jezebel, and Mammy).

Also, the report discusses how adult perceptions have a “casual connection” to why black girls are disciplined more harshly than their peers in school and beyond, with black almost three times more likely than white girls to be referred to the juvenile justice system and 20 percent more likely to be charged with a crime.

Speaking on the research in an interview with Huff Post, Rebecca Epstein said: “The consequences of entering the juvenile justice system can’t be ignored. As we know, it can change the course of a girl’s life."

"But despite these startling statistics, there’s precious little research about why this different treatment happens; why are black girls subjected to more discipline and greater contact with the juvenile justice system? And at the center, we wanted to look at those possible root causes.”

The authors of the study said they hope that researchers and teachers examine the “causal connection between adultification and harsh treatment,” and that policymakers make concerted efforts to counteract this bias.

Epstein said Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality will being doing its part by creating an initiative on gender justice and opportunity later in the year. In all future related efforts, Epstein said it’s essential to center those affected the most.

“In all of this work, voices of black girls themselves should be front and center to the work,” she said. “We encourage black girls to raise their voices about this issue and, of course, for adults to listen to them. All black girls are entitled to and deserve equal treatment, including equal access to the protections that are appropriate for children.”

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