Updated: Feb 7, 2021
Are our Black girls and boys being treated unfairly and being forced to grow up too soon?
Research shows that Black boys are disproportionately disciplined in public schools than other races. In a study conducted by the US Government in 2018, we see Black boys making up 15.5% of the public school population but representing 39% of the population of students who were disciplined, an over representation. This is important to note because studies show that students who are removed from classes or suspended are likely to fall behind in their studies, drop out of school and become a part of the justice system. This also has implications during later life as research show that this creates a lower earning potential for the child and increases the financial burden on society (link).
Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality conducted a nationwide (US) study in 2017, which showed that adults feel that Black girls as young as 5 years old (and up to 19) needed less nurturing, protection, support and comfort than their White counterparts. The research also showed that adults viewed Black girls as more independent and felt that they knew more about adult topics, such as sex than White girls their age (link). The Centre also conducted a more recent study in 2019, which found that Black girls experience harsher treatment at school, are expected to behave to a higher standard and adults paint Black girls with negative stereotypes of being aggressive and hypersexualised. The report also showed that much like our Black boys, our Black girls are being suspended at a much higher rate than White girls (5 times more) and are 2.7 times more likely to enter the justice system than White girls (link).
What are the implications?
By viewing our Black girls as hypersexual, we introduce the topic of sex to girls at a time when they might not even be thinking of sex
Suspensions lead to missed education which can have long term impacts, especially if repeated
Being treated as an adult forces children to grow up too soon
What are the solutions?
There needs to be better training so that teachers can understand their bias and amend their behaviour, but there also needs to be more attention paid to the reasons for school discipline and to the schools themselves that enforce the discipline (link).
Additionally, we, as a Black community need to treat our children like children and let them keep their innocence for as long as possible. We also need to protect them from the systems that are created to see them fail and remind our children that they are not a stereotype.