A recent report written by Rebecca Epstein (Executive Director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality), Jamilia J. Blake (Associate Professor at Texas A&M University), and Thalia González (Associate Professor at Occidental College) determined that young Black girls (between ages 5 and 14) are less viewed as innocent and more like adults — adultification — than white girls due to some factors.
Adultification is when someone is forced to act more mature or “before their time.”
The “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood” study revealed that adultification has been detrimental to Black girls, especially in the educational system.
According to a survey included in the report, participants believe that Black girls need less nurturing, support, protection, and comfort than their white counterparts. Black female stereotypes, such as being loud and aggressive, are perceived as a threat and adult behavior, which leads to the assumption that Black girls can fend for themselves.
The “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood’ report also mentioned that adults think Black girls are more knowledgeable in grown-up subjects like sex than their white counterparts. However, these assumptions set up young women in school for the worst — cruel and unjust punishments by educators and school resource officers.
Additionally, the assumption that Black girls know how to fend for themselves can lead to “fewer leadership and mentorship opportunities in school.”
Factors that contribute to the line of thinking are Black girls’ bodies develop faster than white girls; so the physical changes of a Black girl going through puberty can make her appear older to others due to the rapid rate breasts may grow, Black women and girls, are hypersexualized.
Slavery is to be blamed for that since enslaved people weren’t just used for economic reasons but also because Black women were fetishized by enslavers and forced to engage in sexual activities.
Priscilla Ocen, a professor at Loyola Marymount University, advises that “recognizing the phenomenon of adultification” enables people to “overcome the perception that ‘innocence, like freedom, is a privilege,’”
Blake urges “legislators, advocates, and policymakers to examine the disparities that exist for black girls in the education and juvenile justice systems and to pursue reforms that preserve childhood for all.”