#LetBlackGirlsBeGirls: A New Study Centers The Voices Of Black Women & Girls Who Routinely Face Adultification & Criminalization More Than Their Peers

May 15, 2019  |  

High school students in library studying together

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A new report by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality continues their groundbreaking research from 2017, which revealed that Black girls are perceived to be less innocent and more adult-like than their counterparts, starting as young as age five.

In the latest study titled, “Listening To Black Women and Girls: Lived Experiences of Adultification Bias,” researchers spoke directly to Black women ranging from age 12 to 60 in several focus groups across the country.

The effort was made to summarize the implicit factors surrounding adultification bias heightened by racism, poverty, and the over-sexualization of young Black girls and women.

“Our new research elevates the voices of black women and girls themselves, who told us that they are routinely affected by this form of discrimination, said report co-author Rebecca Epstein, who leads the Initiative on Gender, Justice & Opportunity.

These detrimental elements contribute to how Black women are received throughout their whole life, starting from their family units, to the classroom ,to the workplace.

“Almost all the black girls and women we talked to said they’d experienced adultification bias as children,” said Jamilia Blake, the report’s co-author. “And they overwhelmingly agreed that it led teachers and other adults to treat them more harshly and hold them to higher standards than white girls.”

“The way Black girls are raised is to be independent. And be like go-getters to get what you want for yourself. But it’s like … white girls, they [have] things handed down to them. They get it the easy way. So, it’s like — they don’t have to struggle the way that Black people are struggling,” said one participant in the focus group.

The findings of the report included the following: Black girls routinely experience adultification bias, Adultification is linked to harsher treatment and higher standards for black girls in school, negative stereotypes of black women as angry, aggressive and hypersexualized are projected onto black girls, adults attempt to change black girls’ behavior to be more passive.

“And I think that since the society we live in is predominately white … Black girls … are … outside of that like majority community …. We don’t have the benefit also of having the empathy,” said another focus group member.

Researchers also learned adultification bias can lead educators and other authorities to treat black girls in developmentally inappropriate ways, factors that contribute to adultification bias include racism, sexism, and poverty, and lastly, adults have less empathy for black girls than their white peers.

In order to tackle the issue, focus group members said the owness belongs to others, awareness and data only will not suffice. The end to adultifcation bias can only take place if educators and authorities in positions of power “develop and provide culturally competent, gender-responsive, and developmentally appropriate systems of support for Black girls.”

The Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality wants to continue this important conversation online and asks that Black women continue to share their stories by using the hashtag #LetBlackGirlsBeGirls and by visiting EndAdultificationBias.org.

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