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Law School Report Shows Black Girls Viewed as ‘Less Innocent’ Than Whites


A new report released by the Georgetown University Law Center addresses stereotypes imposed on young black girls, and how they may be related to how they face disproportionate discipline from schools and the criminal justice system compared to whites girls. The report analyzed the results of a survey, which showed that participants viewed black girls as older, more sexualized, and as a result, “less innocent” than whites in the same age group.

The “adultification” of young black girls could be an explanation for troubling statistics that show how they face different treatment than white girls, the report says. For example, it says, “black girls are five times more likely to be suspended [from school] … nearly three times as likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system … 20% more likely to be charged with a crime” than white girls. Additionally, they are less likely than white girls to receive benefits from prosecutorial discretion.

The survey involved responses to questions from 325 participants, 74% of whom were white, and 62% female.

The report used research from a 2014 study about perception of black boys as a launching point, and then similarly studied the data on girls. The 2014 study showed that from the time black boys reach the age of 10, they’re more likely to bee seen as older, as well as viewed as guilty of crimes for which they’re suspects.

“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,” said Rebecca Epstein, lead author of the report and executive director of Georgetown’s Center on Poverty and Inequality.

Jamilia Blake, coauthor of the report and an associate professor at Texas A&M University, said, “We urge legislators, advocates and policymakers to examine the disparities that exist for black girls in the education and juvenile justice systems and to pursue reforms that preserve childhood for all.”

[Image via Georgetown Law screengrab]

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