Black girls being called “fast,” Black boys being told they’re the man of the house at age 7, and teachers criminalizing them in school — all this forces Black children and youth to grow up faster than their peers.
It’s called adultification bias, and through her “Lost Innocence: The Adultification of Black Children” series, Word In Black’s health data reporter Anissa Durham’s talked to dozens of experts and sources about how Black children experience more adultification than non-Black children, how this adultification shows up in adulthood, and outlines the ways that parents and teachers can put a stop to it.
That’s why for Word In Black’s first-ever Community Townhall discussion, Durham brought together a team of experts to talk about how adultification bias shows up in our families and schools, and how we stop it and heal from it.
The six panelists — Bahia Overton, executive director of the Portland, Oregon-based Black Parent Initiative; Terri Watson, associate professor of educational leadership at the City College of New York; Amir Gilmore, assistant professor of cultural studies and social thought in education at Washington State University; Shamari White, communications associate and advocate; Megan Freeland, director of health communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America; and Ashanti Branch, the Oakland-based founder and executive director of the Ever Forward Club — brought a variety of expertise, lived experience, parenting advice, and how to work toward healing.
The one-hour discussion kicked off with an introduction from WIB managing director Liz Courquet-Lesaulnier. Durham then shared a brief explainer about what adultification bias is, and gave viewers an overview of the themes and topics addressed throughout the Lost Innocence: The Adultification of Black Children series.
Durham moderated the conversation, asking specific questions of each panelist. The first part of the conversation was about why we, as a community, experience adultification. Bahia Overton, executive director of Black Parent Initiative, shared that adultification “is the feeling of ownership over Black bodies.”
For any child, parents and teachers are the adults children interact with most. That’s why the heart of the discussion centered on how we can shift the language we use with and about our Black children. Gilmore had a clear message for educators: “If you cannot see Black children as children, then you probably shouldn’t be a teacher.”
In the Black community, there may be some hesitation to speak to your kids about difficult topics. Freeland spoke about her parenting style, “It’s not my job to be comfortable. It’s my job to be the best parent I can be with my children.”
The thread of healing was paramount. Although these conversations can be difficult, the panelists shared that shying away from them continues the generational trauma and cycle of adultifying Black children.
Check out the full discussion in the video above, and be sure to read the series.
Lost Innocence: The Adultification of Black Children
- Black Children Deserve to Be Children — Black girls are called “fast,” and boys are seen as men. Both lose their innocence thanks to adultification bias.
- Life and Death: When Police Criminalize Young Black Men — In and out of schools, Black youth fear for their lives. And, for one teen in California, that fear comes every time he gets in his car.
- If Parents Don’t Protect Their Kids From Abuse, Who Will? — 1 in 4 Black girls will be sexually abused before age 18. When the women we spoke to told their parents, they weren’t protected.
- Why Do We View Black Girls as Sex Objects? — Black girls are so often viewed as sex objects that the blame is shifted to the girls being sexualized instead of the adults.
- What You Should Know About Adultification Bias — Explainer: A reader’s guide to what adultification bias is, how it shapes the lives of Black children, and why this stereotype of Black childhood needs to change.
- Listen: In Their Words, Black Folks Talk Adultification Bias — Hear the brave voices of those who went on the record about their experiences being criminalized and sexualized.
- Reporter’s Notebook: The Uncomfortable Truths I Uncovered About Black Childhood — Anissa spent months talking with Black folks for her series, “Lost Innocence: The Adultification of Black Children.” Here’s what she learned.