It starts at age 5.
No, I'm not talking about Kindergarten where my 5 year old will be this Fall. I'm talking about the "adultification" of black girls. A brand new study by Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality found that black girls are seen as "less innocent and less in need of protection than white girls,". Lead author Rebecca Epstein says that this bias can help explain why...
"Black girls are 5x more likely to be suspended as white girls, and twice as likely to be suspended as white boys.
Black girls make up just under 16% of the female school population, but account for 28% of referrals to law enforcement, and 37% of arrests. White girls account for 50% the female school population, but only 34% of referrals and 30% of arrests.
Black girls are nearly 3x as likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system as white girls.
Black girls are 20% more likely to be charged with a crime than white girls."
I was asked recently why African American women were more likely to be abused*. My internal reaction was incredulous. How could centuries of racism not make black women more likely to be victims of violence? This new report makes sense in a similar way. If black girls are (seen as) less deserving and more knowledgable about adult topics, they will certainly be more likely to be treated as adults. And that bias will extend to sexuality. Black girls are also more likely to be seen as hypersexual. Hypersexuality is a familiar stereotype about black women. With this evidence (although not explored in the report) it's little wonder that black girls are more susceptible to sexual abuse.
The report calls on lawmakers and policy wonks to "look at this disparities" and "pursue reforms,". Yes. And it's not just on lawmakers. Very little would happen if we relied on lawmakers to be the ones pushing reform. it's actually on all of us to create the needed change. We need to look at our own biases. Who do we follow? What do we watch? Where do we spend our time? How do we talk about equity in our family? It's on all of us.
The door is wide open on this one. Everyone can fit through and make a difference, especially the white folks. You can start today.