“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” –Audre Lorde
People’s ignorant and reckless fantasies of Black girls are dangerous.
We cannot continue to spectate nor diminish the traumatic experiences Black girls are enduring in schools across the nation.
Black girls being bullied by their peers and dismissed by school personnel, simply because of their culture and identity, is a massive problem. The amount of evidence is overwhelming, and the anecdotes across the country are disturbingly consistent.
A report released this April by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) gathered data on factors that contribute to girls of color not achieving in school, and revealed that between one-third and one-half of girls of color have experienced being called a racial slur.
The report aligns with some of the incidents we’ve seen across the country in the past few months.
There has been headline after headline detailing the harassment that took place in a Georgetown, Texas middle school, where over the course of several months, students referred to a Black girl as an “ape” and “slave” and pretended to whip her. They violated and humiliated her for their amusement. They terrorized her through gestures, and isolated her because of her race. School administrators were aware of the incidents. The school principal told the father of the young girl that the actions of the students were not considered “bullying.”
Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” The principal’s lack of action was negligent, and affirmed the egregiously racist behavior of the students.
He gave them the green light.
The NWLC’s report also disclosed that Black girls are nearly six times more likely to be suspended from school than White girls.
In another recent case, it took an injunction from the Massachusetts’ attorney general’s office for a school to renege on dress code policies that discriminated against the ways that Black girls choose to style their hair. Two twins, Mya and Deanna Cook, were disciplined for wearing braids, which are against the school’s policy. They were barred from prom and assigned detentions for their lack of compliance.
Black hair styles being met with disciplinary action is inequitable, and further demonizes Black youth within school buildings. It contributes to an unsafe academic culture for Black girls, where they are already forcefully labeled as overaggressive, hyper-sexual, and inadequate.
There is an unsettling pattern of incidents where Black girl are the victims, whether it be from the actions of adults, or the actions of other students. Traumatic experiences have a directly influence on one’s mental and physical health. They also creates barriers, making it difficult to focus, concentrate, and be invested in schools. Schools have to reflect what we ideally want society to be; an inclusive environment that serves as an arena for social development and intellectual growth.
We have to make our schools safer, more culturally competent, and less violent against Black girls.