Black Girls and Discipline

While we lay down in the streets demanding justice for Black men and boys bucked down by abusive cops and call out into the night skies for radical changes to our separate and unequal criminal justice system, can we put in a word for our girls? Because a new report laying out disparities when it comes to Black girls and school discipline has me feeling some kind of way.

Consider this: Villanova University researchers found that there’s a direct correlation between Black girls’ skin color and the severity of consequences they face when being disciplined at school. Indeed, researchers’ analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that Black students received much harsher punishments on average than young white girls who were accused of the same action. And if that isn’t outrageous enough, chew on this: the bias inherent in Black girls and school discipline is intraracial, too, with dark-skinned girls facing harsher punishment than light-skinned Black girls.

Marinate on that. Black girls with the darkest skin tones were three times more likely to be suspended than black girls with the lightest skin.

Speculation on why this is made me want to holler, throw up both my hands. Here, what the researchers had to say in this New York Times story about Black girls and discipline:

There are different gender expectations for black girls compared with white girls, said Lance Hannon, a Villanova sociology professor who conducted the analysis. And, he said, there are different expectations within cross-sections of black girls. “When a darker-skinned African-American female acts up, there’s a certain concern about their boyish aggressiveness,” Dr. Hannon said, “that they don’t know their place as a female, as a woman.”

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Studies exist now to validate what we have always known. Who does that help? The perception seems to be the closer we are to the status quo, the more we assimilate the better off we will be. Every time I hear a story like this I think of a bed of nails. The ones that dare to stick out get hammered all the way in leaving the other nails proud in their compliance. The interesting thing with that analogy is the more we hammer those various nails in the more likely the bed itself becomes a tool that injures anyone foolish enough to lay down on it.

    This, in my opinion, is the state of America. Harsher punishment for those that don’t fit the image of the ruling class, which I think if we are honest with ourselves is exactly what we are dealing with. We are being told in no uncertain term our status in this country and we continue to be shocked and outraged. Love our babies. Protect our babies. Tell our babies the truth, all we got is us.

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