top of page
Search

Why Won’t Society Let Black Girls Be Children?

Adultification means teachers, parents and law enforcement are less protective and more punitive with certain kids.

By A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez

This story was originally published on Jan. 28, 2020 in NYT Parenting.


Punishment was a hallmark of my educational experience.


It started when my preschool teacher labeled me as manipulative and intentionally disruptive. She even tried to film me to prove to my mother I was a problem — she never got that footage, and accused me of pretending to behave at the sight of the camera.

Although I was only 3 years old, she was convinced that my insistent hand raising and refusal to sit still were signs that I was malicious instead of simply understimulated. As soon as I was old enough to understand what happened, my mom didn’t hesitate to tell me the story each time I expressed self-doubt. She wanted me to understand I wasn’t a problem, I was simply an engaged learner. In a world where falling in line was more important than shining, my strengths were a threat.


That experience set the tone for the rest of my schooling. “Disruptive,” “talkative,” and “distraction” were used almost as often as my name. It meant being paddled a lot, calls home to my mother and isolation from other students as punishment.


By high school, I stopped participating almost completely; it was easier to focus on boys than be misunderstood in the classroom.


[Why America’s black mothers and babies are in a life-or-death crisis.]

At the time, I didn’t know that my experiences weren’t uncommon. I was experiencing what academics call “adultification,” in which teachers, law enforcement officials and even parents view black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers. This perspective often categorizes black girls as disruptive and malicious for age-appropriate behaviors.

Adultification means black girls are punished more frequently, even when they’re under 6. According to a report from the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection, from 2013-2014, only 20 percent of female preschoolers were black, but black girls made up 54 percent of female preschool children with one or more suspensions.


Now that I’m a grown woman raising a black girl, I’m at a crossroads. How can I preserve my daughter’s childhood while preparing her for a world that may judge her prematurely?

Jamilia Blake, Ph.D., a psychologist and associate professor at Texas A&M University who co-authored the 2019 report “Listening to Black Women and Girls: Lived Experiences of Adultification Bias” and its precursor, the 2017 study “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” said adultification impacts black girls early in life. To read more click here.

Credit: New York Times

48 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page