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.”
Compared with black boys, who are disciplined at higher rates than boys of other races and ethnicities, researchers say black girls tend to be penalized more subjectively, like for having a bad attitude or being defiant.
Jamilia Blake, an associate professor of educational psychology at Texas A&M University, said that while black boys are seen as threatening, black girls are often seen as “unsophisticated, hypersexualized and defiant.”
The Times story illustrates the disparities with the story about two 12-year-olds—one Black, one white—who faced astonishingly different punishment for school vandalism. Both were suspended for a few days and slapped with a $100 fine, but when Mikia Hutchings’ family said they couldn’t afford to pay, the school made Mikia face a disciplinary hearing, and then sent the local sheriff to the girl’s house.
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.