By Flora Ekpe-Idang
In a recent study by Georgetown University’s Law Center on Poverty and Inequality titled “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood”, the research suggests that perceived views of black girls ties to “adultification”. This means that black girls are viewed as being older than white girls their age and black girls need less protection and support than their white peers. The nine-item questionnaire surveyed 325 participants from different racial and ethnic backgrounds throughout the US with 74% being white and 62% being female. Some of the questions asked included:
How often do Black [or white] females take on adult responsibilities?
How much do Black [or white] females seem older than their age?
How much do Black [or white] females need to be supported?
How much do Black [or white] females need to be comforted?
Though black girls across the board were viewed as more adult than white girls, between the age brackets of 5-9 and 10-14, black girls had the greatest significant differences. This study implied that black girls as early as 5 behaved more like adults, are in need of less protection, knew more on adult topics, and could take on adult roles. So what does this all mean?
Well for starters this suggested perception could tie into harsher treatment for black girls in school, the perception that they’re less trustworthy, and more likely to be the offender in a situation. This could also be why black girls are disciplined more in the education system and are treated harsher by law enforcement according to the study. Also according to the study, between 2013-2014, there was an 8% enrollment rate of black girls in K-12, but they represented 13% of students suspended. Whether it be through discipline measures or implicit bias, there is a conversation to be had. Black females have been given the stereotype of the “angry black girl”, “the independent strong black woman”, “the mammy”, and the “Jezebel”. In media as well black females have often been shown as one-dimensional caricatures based on the categories just mentioned. This distorted view could also relate to why black girls are perceived differently than white girls.
Though this research is not a large sample size and there needs to be a deeper dive into why there is a perception that black girls are viewed older, it does create a conversation on the treatment of black girls and black women too in this country and whether they are set up to succeed or fail. Equal support, protection, and belief for success should be given to all kids and black girls should be no exception. Recognizing that this issue does exist and doing what we can to elevate, educate, and encourage our girls is important.
Corage Dolls is a multicultural doll company that helps to elevate, educate, and encourages girls of color to shatter societal barriers and is unafraid to embrace their full potential. Feel free to share this post on social media and follow us at coragedolls.com for more blogs and the latest updates regarding when our doll and book launches.