Black Girlhood

Black Girls Deserve A Childhood But Are Too Often Denied One

“Black girls are likened more to adults than to children and are treated as if they are willfully engaging in behaviors typically expected of Black women.”

She concluded that the compression “renders black girlhood interchangeable with Black womanhood.” The results of the new study were terrifying. “The study participants viewed Black girls as more adult than White girls. Not only were Black girls perceived to be more adult but that perception reached all the way to Black girls as young as five” 

REBECCA EPSTEIN ET AL., GEO. LAW CTR. OF POVERTY & INEQUALITY, GIRLHOOD INTERRUPTED: THE ERASURE OF BLACK GIRLS’ CHILDHOOD, 4 (0217)

Black girls are stripped of their childhood and aged by a system that does not see black children as children at all.

One alarming example of this comes out of Washington DC, when in 2015, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested an eleven-year-old Black girl when she came to report she had been raped. Even though the girl had signs of sexual trauma, including taking a rape kit that confirmed as much, the police charged her with filing a false police report.

The New
Jane Crow

For decades, foster care has served as punishment for Black mothers and their children. Children’s Services are able to take children from their parents on the grounds that the child’s safety is at risk, even without clear and compelling evidence. This practice, which is disproportionately used to remove children of color from their homes has  been called the new “Jane Crow,” a reference to laws that codified racial segregation. Once children are removed from their homes and placed into the system they often become more vulnerable to abuse, sexual violence and human trafficking.

As Gabrielle Union, actress and a leading celebrity voice in the #MeToo movement wrote in Essence in 2017,  African-American children comprise 52 percent of all juvenile prostitution arrests—more than any other racial group. They are traumatized in their community then left vulnerable to retraumatization in the juvenile and criminal justice system, subjected to the consequences of having an arrest and juvenile record, and deprived of appropriate intervention and treatment services made available to other survivors of sexual abuse.

“The presumption is that it’s about justice and safety but in fact, the state is continuing to batter survivors and disappear them.”

– Colby Lenz, Survived and Punished

Foster Care & Probation

Cyntoia Brown

Cyntoia Brown was only 16 when she was convicted of murdering her 43-year-old assailant who had tried to coerce her into sex in a way that made her fear for her life when she fatally shot him. Cyntoia spent her entire life in foster care, and had run away from her adoptive family and was living with a boyfriend who she said forced her into sex work at the time of the incident. The jury had all of this information when they decided to convict her with first-degree murder and sentenced her to 51 years in prison. It didn’t matter that she was poor. It didn’t matter that she had been in foster care since she was an infant. It didn’t matter that she was abused by both her boyfriend and her assailant. In the minds of the jury, Cyntoia should have just continued to endure abuse.

Despite the public outcry over Cyntoia’s case, an extremely rare circumstance for Black girls, she has been in prison for as many years as she was when she went in at 16. The fact that Brown remains in prison even while there are legal efforts to free her and high-profile attention driven towards her case brings home just how hard it is to free incarcerated survivors of domestic and sexual violence once they have been put into prison. BREAKING: Cyntoia Brown has been granted clemency, effective August 7th 2019. This was made possible because of Cyntoia’s grit, and because other Black women and girls were committed to seeing her free through campaigns like this: Free Cyntoia Brown

Bresha Meadows

In July 2016, 14 year old Bresha Meadows was arrested after fatally shooting her abusive father. She was sent to a juvenile detention center on charges of aggravated murder. She faced the possibility of being tried as an adult; if convicted, she would have been sentenced to life in prison as opposed to until the age of 21. She was eventually tried in the juvenile system and convicted of involuntary manslaughter, requiring a year and a day behind bars and two years on probation.

Being on probation means being under state supervision. Bresha, and other Black girls on probation, will be heavily scrutinized—and their actions have great repercussions. They will not be able to function and live as normal children, and their quality of life will be determined by the benevolence of the officer overseeing their probation.

Juvenile
System

Race, gender and class create an image of Black girls that suggests they are older and less worthy of care and protection; as criminal. The juvenile system was originally designed to be a place of intervention for poor youth to stop them from entering the criminal system as adults. What is clear is that for Black children, the system functions as a pipeline apparatus of the larger prison industrial complex.

Jyoti Nanda, Blind Discretion: Girls of Color & Delinquency in the Juvenile Justice System

Expulsion
& Education

Black girls are more than twice as likely to be suspended from school as white girls – in every state – and it’s not because of more frequent or serious misbehavior. The racist and sexist stereotypes that educators and school officials harbor about Black girls, that they are ‘angry’ or aggressive, and ‘promiscuous’ or hyper-sexualized shape school officials’ views of black girls in critically harmful ways. These harmful stereotypes result in Black girls being punished for challenging what society considers “feminine” behavior – things like being candid or assertive, talking back to teachers, as well as less severe transgressions, including chewing gum and dress code violations.

Black girls are 5.5 times more likely to be suspended than white girls. They are also more likely to receive multiple suspensions than any other gender or race of students.

Despite this, #BlackGirlMagic thrives and Black girls know how to celebrate each other best.