Amy and Rebecca are both four-year-olds in Miss Patricia’s preschool classroom. The two girls don’t usually see eye-to-eye, so when the two girls started to argue, Miss Patricia didn’t pay it much attention. Soon after, there was a loud slap and then another. Amy and Rebecca both began to cry.
Miss Patricia rushed over, kneeling in front of the crying girls. She saw them cradling their cheeks and could guess what happened. She gently touched Rebecca’s cheek, checking for a mark. At the same time she asked Amy if she was alright, and to explain what happened. Amy, crying, told her Rebecca hit her and that her cheek hurt. Rebecca shot back that Amy hit her, too. But Rebecca hit her first, Amy said. Miss Patricia stopped them, and told Amy that she should know better than to hit, whoever started it, and that it’s not okay to hit such a small girl.
Amy and Rebecca are the same age and about the same size. It’s obvious Miss Patricia is a caring teacher, but she checked to make sure only Rebecca was injured, said Amy should have known better than to hit, and called Rebecca small, though both girls are similar in size. The only real difference between the girls is that Amy is black.
According to Georgetown Law’s study “Girl Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood” this is called ‘adultification bias’. Adultification is defined as a type of bias where children from racial minority groups, particularly black Americans, are perceived and treated as more mature than is reasonable considering their age and development. In the case of Miss Patricia, she saw Amy as not only the older of the two girls, and thus more responsible for controlling her anger, but also as the more developed and stronger of the two.
According to “Girl Interrupted” this is particularly harmful to black girls in education settings, as they are considered less innocent, more independent and in less need of nurturing and protection. So, these girls are often more harshly punished, excluded from opportunities for mentorship, expected to act more mature than non-black girls, and not supported or comforted by their teachers. Just like Amy was.