Boys will be boys and girls will be girls–except when it comes to Black children in America and research once again verifies that sad fact. New scientific evidence verifies the well-known reality that age doesn’t matter when it comes to the treatment of Black children by law enforcement and authorities.
“Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their White peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime,” the American Psychological Association said. The article: “The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children” was published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that Black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when White boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent,” said author Phillip Atiba Goff, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Researchers tested 176 police officers, mostly White males, average age 37, in large urban areas, to determine their levels of two distinct types of bias–prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of Black people by comparing them to apes, said APA.
To test for prejudice, researchers had officers complete a widely used psychological questionnaire with statements such as “It is likely that Blacks will bring violence to neighborhoods when they move in.” To determine officers’ dehumanization of Blacks, the researchers gave them a psychological task in which they paired Blacks and Whites with large cats, such as lions, or with apes.
Researchers reviewed police officers’ personnel records to determine use of force while on duty and found that those who dehumanized Blacks were more likely to have used force against a Black child in custody than officers who did not dehumanize Blacks, APA said. The study described use of force as takedown or wrist lock; kicking or punching; striking with a blunt object; using a police dog, restraints or hobbling; or using tear gas, electric shock or killing.
“The evidence shows that perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race, and for Black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults,” said co-author Matthew Jackson, Ph.D., also of UCLA. “With the average age overestimation for Black boys exceeding four-and-a-half years, in some cases, Black children may be viewed as adults when they are just 13 years old.”
“The study also involved 264 mostly White, female undergraduate students from large public U.S. universities. In one experiment, students rated the innocence of people ranging from infants to 25-year-olds who were Black, White or an unidentified race. The students judged children up to 9 years old as equally innocent regardless of race, but considered Black children significantly less innocent than other children in every age group beginning at age 10, the researchers found,” according to APA.
The research outlined in the February article reminds Black America that there is little or no presumption of innocence when it comes to our children and our failure to unite, organize and promote our own interests is costing us the present and the future.
Research from the civil rights arm of the U.S. Justice Department found Black students have high suspension rates and are most likely to be put out of preschool–not just high school but school before you actually enter school. “Black children represent about 18 percent of children in preschool programs in schools, but they make up almost half of the preschoolers who are suspended more than once, the report said,” according to the Associated Press reported.
“Overall, the data show that Black students of all ages are suspended and expelled at a rate that’s three times higher than that of White children. Even as boys receive more than two-thirds of suspensions, Black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or most boys,” according to the Associated Press.
The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative compiled research on school discipline and found more than 3 million students from kindergarten to 12th grade were suspended during the 2009-2010 school year, twice the rate of suspensions since the 1970s. Black students were nearly 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than their White peers, wrote Freddie Allen of the NNPA Newswire. (See page 7 for the full story.)
The NNPA Newswire reported the discrepancy wasn’t in punishment for well-defined offenses but for subjective violations like “disrespectful behavior, loud noise and defiance.” White students actually had higher rates for violating stated rules. The discipline meted out to Black students was too often based on “the mood, ideology, philosophy, values, and biases of the adults making that decision.”
Whenever negative conditions facing Black youth are mentioned, there is a quick focus on pushing for youth to do better, to act properly, to dress properly, and to understand the need to adhere to rules and norms of society. Much of that makes sense, but we cannot demand that our children act more grown up than grown-ups themselves. And we cannot demand that our children do better while adults find ways to ignore problems, or hide behind politics or religion to avoid dealing with problems. We need to confront the disease of American racism and White Supremacy and stop trying to downplay or excuse it away. It’s here to stay, unless we kill it.
Clearly America does not love Black children. Do we and what are we willing to do to show it?