In light of the events regarding child Q, it is important to discuss the adultification bias that some ethnic minority children face, most especially black children (I can only discuss black children as that is my experience).
It is seen all over social media, in day-to-day lives, and even in normal family dynamics that black girls are treated older than they are.
Adultification is a form of racial prejudice where children of minority groups are treated as being more mature than they actually are in relation to a reasonable social standard of development. Adultification of black girls goes hand in hand with the sexualisation of black girls, as more often than not people will tend to see little black girls as grown women.
Examples of these situations include strip searches, when black girls’ true ages are disbelieved by authority figures like police officers, or when they face discipline in school for misbehaviour that their white peers would usually be excused of, and even in society black girls are often chastised for looking “too grown up” in certain clothes or hairstyles, compared to their white counterparts. For example, a black girl could wear a coloured wig and would be accused of acting too ‘grown up’ but if a white girl were to do the same and there would be no problem.
The fact is, when a black girl misbehaves, it is seen as deliberate rather than a child making a mistake, and as with most issues black women face, racism and sexism are some of the main factors that are behind this treatment.
It would not be too far off to say that this bias has definitely contributed to sexual assault incidents that many black girls face in their pre-teens, as a lot of black girls have received unwanted attention from men way older than them while they were only a pre-teen. A report done in 2003 estimated that one in four black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18. The report also showed that 40- 60% of black women reported being subjected to coercive sexual contact before the age of 18. It could be argued that this number might have increased in value, with social media as a huge factor.
The negative stereotypes of black women also serve as a contributing factor to adultification bias when they are projected onto black girls. Black women have been stereotyped as either loud, angry and aggressive, or have been hypersexualized. By interpreting black girls’ behaviour as consistent with stereotypes of black women, the childhoods of black girls are in effect erased as adults or authority simply assume a black girl’s character is just plain ‘bad’.
Since black women are hypersexualized, it is assumed that black girls are sexually active at an early age and that they are generally less innocent than their white peers. This is problematic, because bringing up topics of sex could essentially be introducing these girls to these topics when they had no idea about it in the first place!
Racism is upheld when negative and harmful biases like this exist and these behaviours are harmful to these little black girls who will one day become women. They would not live freely lest they are subjected to the behaviours exhibited by child Q’s attackers. Society is essentially treating black women at a young age to pretend, not ask questions or challenge authority, which in itself is problematic. Society is also teaching black girls that they are inferior to white girls
From the aggressive “young lady”, they become the aggressive black woman. Will these girls die exhausted and stereotyped?
Written by Oyinkansola Oyefeso