“It’s not fair that now I have to say, ‘It’s OK to be Black and hyper and giddy,’ that it’s not a crime to smile,” Zulayka McKinstry said of her daughter.
-Miranda Barnes for The New York Times
Historically, black women have been portrayed as hypersexual. As a result, many enslaved Black people were sold into prostitution. In other situations, black women became willing concubines of white slave owners. This was done to support themselves and their children. During slavery, black women were stripped down, placed on auction blocks, and sold to the highest bidder. Black women were said to be promiscuous and immortal to rationalize these atrocities. Hence, the “Jezebel” stereotype was birthed.
Now let’s look at how the Jezebel stereotype affects young black girls. Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality (2017) found that black girls are “different” compared to white peers. Their needs were of much less concern. The data showed that black girls need less support, nurture, comfort, and protection. Also, they were seen as more independent and aware of more adult topics, including sex.
Unfortunately, the negative stereotype has continued and implicitly affects black girls in education. Currently, it is known as adultification bias. Adultification is a term for robbing black girls of their youth. It forces them to be “little women .” As a result, they do not have the opportunity to experience childhood. Parents and teachers, my assigned responsibilities are not age-appropriate. Adultification for black girls can start as early as preschool and become more apparent as the girl ages.
Being aware of adultification is critical in building up black girls. We must understand why black girls are being arrested, incur more severe discipline in schools, and are abused in their communities. The perception that they are adults takes away their innocence. We must dismantle the stereotypes….Loose Jezebel! Let her Go! As a community, we have to make black girls feel safe. We must develop more resources that provide support for their unique needs.
We cannot keep neglecting the mental health of black girls. We often turn to those in education or the juvenile justice system to deal with these issues. However, these entities are not equipped to deal with black girls. There is so much racial and generational trauma that a unique approach to mental health must be considered. Mental health services must be culturally responsive.
Until next time….when you hear a conversation or observe behavior that leans into adultification….Slay What Ya Hear!