Adultification

Study finds that American adults perceive black girls as ‘less innocent’ than white girls

(Tim Boyle/Newsmakers)

While many were shocked to hear the results of a Georgetown University study that found that black girls are perceived as less innocent than white girls by American adults, the news came as no surprise to black mothers, wrote Jonita Davis in an Op-Ed for The Washington Post.

Last month, Georgetown released a study titled “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” which found that black girls are adultified, sexualized, and deemed overly aggressive from a young age. According to the study, adults make judgements about children even “in absence of knowledge of the children’s behavior and verbalization” — meaning, in other words, that even without saying anything black children were judged as less innocent than white children. The results of the study, wrote Davis, were sadly reflective of her own experience as the mother of a black child.

When her eldest daughter, Chloe, was just a toddler, Davis wrote, people began commenting on her “curves.” Embarrassed by how people talked about her daughter, Davis said she began dressing Chloe in one-piece jumpers and shorts at the beach instead of bathing suits — all while her white niece played in two-piece without drawing any sexualized comments at all.

The consequences of such stereotypes, the Georgetown study concluded, are incredibly harmful to young black girls.

“Ultimately,” the study authors wrote, “adultification is a form of dehumanizing, robbing black children of the very essence of what makes childhood distinct from other developmental periods: innocence.”

Davis recalled another incident that captured what the study’s authors discovered. She was taken aback by something she overheard another father say about Chloe when she was in middle school. “My black kid was cast as the problem,” noted Davis, “even though both girls had contributed opinions and names.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is independent of and separate from any views of The New York Times.

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