adultification Victim Speaks out after 6 years

Adultification is a story about how black children are profiled as adults.

In the spring of 2016, a 12-year-old girl in Texas was interrogated by police officers without an adult present after a classmate said she had made a threat. The girl, who had not been identified, was frisked and searched, and her backpack was searched. She was then handcuffed and taken to a juvenile detention centre, strip-searched.

 

The incident caused outrage, many asking how this could happen to a child. But experts say it is just one example of how black children are perceived as more mature – and culpable – than white peers.

 

This phenomenon is known as “adultification”. It can have serious consequences for black children, who are more likely to be seen as threats and subjected to harsher punishments than their white counterparts.

 

A recent study found that teachers are more likely to see black boys as “bigger, stronger, more dangerous and in need of stricter discipline” than white boys.

 

This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy: if teachers expect black children to misbehave, they are more likely to pay attention to them when they do and less likely to give them the benefit of the doubt.

 

Black children are also more likely to be seen as “adultified” by the media. A 2017 study found that news stories about black children who are victims of crime are more likely to include adult characteristics, such as being “streetwise” or “no stranger to the law”.

 

This portrayal of black children as miniature adults can have dangerous consequences. In the case of the 12-year-old girl in Texas, she was treated as a criminal suspect, despite her age.

 

And in Ahmed’s case, the adultification of black children can lead to a failure to protect them from actual danger. If the police see black children as more capable of dealing with risk, they may be less likely to respond to calls for help.

 

In his nightmare, Ahmed is always alone. But in real life, he is part of a community working to change the way black children are seen and treated. He is a member of the Black Lives Matter movement and is determined to fight for justice.

adultification

Years later, he still vividly remembers the fear he felt that night. “I was petrified,” he says. “I thought I was going to die.”

 

Ahmed is now 18 and speaks about his ordeal for the first time. He does so in the middle of a political storm over the treatment of black children within statutory services in the UK. After several startling cases – such as Child Q, in which a 15-year-old was strip-searched at school – experts and campaigners have been raising the alarm about adultification bias, a description of the preconceptions that can lead black children to be treated as older and less vulnerable than they are.

 

In Ahmed’s case, the adultification of black children can lead to a failure to protect them from actual danger. If the police see black children as more capable of dealing with risk, they may be less likely to respond to their calls for help.

 

And in the case of the 12-year-old girl in Texas, she was treated as a criminal suspect, despite her age.

 

This portrayal of black children as miniature adults can have dangerous consequences.

 

This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy: if teachers expect black children to misbehave, they are more likely to pay attention to them when they do and less likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. Where do you stand on adultification?

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