The “Adultification” of Black Children

“collage above: Adultification of Black Girls”: pictured top left, Rochester community  protests pepper spraying of 9 year old girl; top right body cam photo of the Rochester girl in back seat of  police car;  bottom left, a 2018 assault on young Black girl in Texas; middle, a 7 year old Michigan victim of police gun fire ; and bottom right, the 16-year-old Florida teen knocked unconscious and seriously injured before being  handcuffed at school.

The  Pepper Spraying and Handcuffing of a 9-year-old Black Girl in Rochester Made National News. But Sadly, the Violent, Racist Actions by Authorities  on Girls of Color is Widespread and All Too Common.

The city of Rochester has suspended the police officers involved in handcuffing and pepper-spraying a 9-year-old girl last week and the family of the girl has filed the first step in a law suit against the city.

 A heartbreaking video of the incident went viral and the  story went national.

“What happened Friday was simply horrible, and has rightly outraged all of our community,” Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement announcing the suspensions.

“This child was under extreme emotional distress and needed care from mental health professionals, or at the very least, assistance from a caring adult,” stated Council President Loretta Scott. “ It is difficult to understand why in the presence of multiple officers, there was a need to use handcuffs and mace to subdue this 9-year old.”  

The Police Accountability Board is currently reviewing the Harris Street incident.

Outrage over the video spread quickly in Rochester.

On Monday, hundreds  of  protesters marched through a frigid winter evening, demanding accountability.  

Outside of police headquarters, they rattled a fence and chanted: “Black Lives Matter” and  “Look what you did, you just Maced a little kid!”

The disturbing body-camera footage of the encounter shows multiple officers using force against a young girl in obvious distress while they responded to a “family trouble” call. Handcuffed and sobbing, the 9-year-old girl screams “I want my dad!” repeatedly as Rochester, N.Y., police officers try to force her into a patrol car. When the girl keeps refusing to swing her legs inside, one officer pulls out his pepper spray.

   “Just spray her at this point,” the unidentified male officer tells a female colleague in a video of the Friday incident.

Moments later, the male officer sprays the girl himself as she shrieks in pain leaving her crying in the back seat. 

An  internal investigation is ongoing.

-From Rochester NY  to Kissimmee, Florida-

  Just a few weeks before the Rochester incident, a Black high school student was body-slammed to the ground and knocked unconscious by a school resource officer.  The video, which went viral, shows the girl lying unconscious with the officer straddling over her lifeless body  and placing her in handcuffs! The girl, 16-year-old  Taylor Bracey, suffered serious injuries .

“I think if this was a  White girl   would  this have happened to the White child? “ her  mother said at  news briefing.

-Adultification-

These most recent incidents in Rochester and Florida bring to light the very real and disturbing issue of what Civil Rights attorney Benjamin  Crump, who is representing the Florida family, refers to as the “adultification of Black children.” Adultification means teachers, parents and law enforcement are less protective and more punitive with certain kids.

A  groundbreaking study-“ Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood” – by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality provides—for the first time— data showing that adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their White peers, especially in the age range of 5–14.  

The Data reveals: Compared to White girls of the same age, survey participants perceive that • Black girls need less nurturing • Black girls need less protection • Black girls need to be supported less • Black girls need to be comforted less • Black girls are more independent • Black girls know more about adult topics • Black girls know more about sex 

These results are profound, with far-reaching implications. The  findings reveal a potential contributing factor to the disproportionate rates of punitive treatment in the education and juvenile justice systems for Black girls.