A recent report by the Center on Poverty and Inequality at the Georgetown University of Law reveals that black girls are seen as less innocent than their peers of other races.
Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood focuses on the concept of “adultification,” in which black girls are viewed as less innocent and more adult-like than their peers, especially in the age range of 5 to 14. The study continues earlier research focused on black boys. Researchers surveyed a participant group which mirrored the composite of the United States’ population.
“It’s a call to action to fight to build on our findings,” said Rebecca Epstein, lead author of the report and the center’s executive director. “It’s a call to action for public awareness and policy reform,” she continued.
Education and Law Enforcement
Black girls are five more times likely to be suspended from school than white girls and twice as likely to be suspended as white boys, according to the report.
The study also found that although black girls make up less than 16 percent of the female population in schools, they account for 28 percent of referrals to law enforcement and 37 percent of arrests. That’s significantly higher than their white female peers, who make up 50 percent of the school population, but make up 34 percent of referrals and 30 percent of arrests.
And in the justice system, black girls receive harsher treatment. They’re three times as likely as white girls to be referred to the juvenile justice system.
“Black girls are being held to the same stereotypes as black women,” said Jamilia Blake, the report’s co-author and a professor at Texas A&M University.
The Psychological Effects on Vulnerable Populations
Both Epstein and Blake hope the study’s findings will be used to train members of law enforcement and educators.
Blake also noted the harmful psychological effects these stereotypes cause over time. “It’s a societal stereotype that’s pervasive,” she said. “It goes across our media. It’s embedded in our history.”