Often, black youths are portrayed to be older and more mature than their white counterparts in the media.
Recent examples include the clearing of a man who raped and impregnated a black girl in France, after officials ruled that the child ‘consented’ to the act. When considering the mental maturity of a typical 11-year old child, it can become hard to imagine a child openly consenting to sex. However, this child is black. Since the period of time of slavery in the U.S., to Blaxploitation films of the 1970’s and to present day, black women were portrayed as overtly sexual. This inaccuracy is even applied to children and in this instance, an 11-year-old child.
In Milwaukee, a 12-year old boy and several other black teens were recently arrested for a suspected armed carjacking.
The child’s face was initially shown on the report, un-blurred, as he was led away, handcuffed by police. His face and others, were later blurred out. Requests to WISN on policies regarding the depiction of minors in newscasts suspected of committing crimes were not immediately returned. A 2014 report from NPR touched on the portrayal of African-American young men to be seen as older than they are in regard to the Trayvon Martin case.
“…on average, more black boys get asked to be in more situations where they’re acting like adults than white boys and the problem is we rarely see our black children with the basic human privilege of getting to act like children.”
So, how can we grant black children their childhood?
Unfortunately, dismantling the roots of racism and its effects on the dehumanization of black children can be described as a difficult task. What we can do, is continue to call out injustices where and when we can. Confronting others who are contributing to the often-inaccurate portrayal of black children as adults when in connection with a crime is one way of doing this. By holding each other accountable for partaking in harmful generalizations and offering to educate, we can help with decreasing these injustices.
Written By: Sarah Thomas