Georgetown Study: Black Girls Are Viewed as Less Innocent Than White Girls

Black girls need less nurturing, comfort, they know more about sex and adult topics, and need less protection than their white counterparts, according to a study released last week by the Georgetown University Law Center on Poverty and Inequality.

The study, “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” surveyed adults from different racial, educational and diverse backgrounds across the United States, by examining perceptions that were found in girls from childhood (5-9), early adolescence (10-14) and in teenagers ages 15-19. Seventy-four percent of those sampled were white, and 62 percent were women.

Cheryl Ann Wadlington, executive director of Evoluer House, a Philadelphia non-profit that empowers girls of color ages 13-18 to envision a future devoid of disadvantages and filled with possibilities, said the adults in the report need to be informed if they think Black girls don’t need help.

“Our girls need help and all the data that is out there states that,” she said. “They have been in crises. Everything you can think of is happening to our Black girls and no one is speaking out about it. Our girls are not OK.”

Rebecca Epstein, the executive director for the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, Jamila J. Blake, an associate professor at Texas A&M University and Thalia Gonzalez, an associate professor at Occidental College in California, are authors of the study.

They suggest the biases of Black girls needing less may be the connected to stricter punishment for minor infractions such as dress code violations, disobedience and disruptive behaviors. The perceptions may also lead to fewer mentorship and leadership roles for Black girls in schools.

African American girls are five times more likely to be suspended compared to white girls, noted the report, which sheds a possible connection to the negative outcome in public systems from education to the juvenile justice system and in child welfare.

Additionally, the study found that Black girls are more independent than white girls, need less support, are three times more likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system, are 20 percent more likely to be charged with a crime and to be detained; and are less likely to benefit from prosecutor’s discretion.

And while Black girls make up under 16 percent of the female school population, they account for 28 percent of referrals to law enforcement and 37 percent of arrests.

“What we found is that adults see Black girls as less innocent and less in need of protection as white girls of the same age,” said Epstein in a news release. “This new evidence of what we call the ‘adultification’ of Black girls may help explain why Black girls in America are disciplined much more often and more severely than white girls — across our schools and in our juvenile justice system.”

To view the report, visit www.law.georgetown.edu/academics/centers-institutes/poverty-inequality/upload/girlhood-interrupted.pdf

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SOURCE: Ryanne Persinger
The Philadelphia Tribune