Sunday, July 9, 2017

Black Girl Interrupted, Black Girls’ Internalization

Internalization alludes to aspects of the other, including those projected, which can become part of the self, encoded experientially and procedurally in the brain, as do interactions or way of interacting with the other. What the other feels about the self, what is implicitly communicated, also becomes part of the sense of self, whether positive or negative feelings. It is the feeling (affect) more than the action that is encoded. Whether the self can come to expect soothing or neglect is also internalized. This procedural knowledge is carried forth into later life.

Black girls age 5-9 years are seen as older than their years, called ‘adultification,’ according to a recently published study by Jamilia J Blake, PhD, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at Texas A&M University and Rebecca Epstein, Executive Director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality. Blake and Epstein found that black girls are seen by the school and juvenile justice systems as more adult and less innocent than their white peers. They are perceived as needing less protection and less comfort and nurturing, and were found to be punished more harshly than white peers, e.g. five times more likely than white girls and twice as likely as white boys to be suspended from school. Teachers were more likely to call the police on black girls and prosecutors less likely to drop cases against them than white girls. While a previous study by a separate research team [Perry] had shown a similar ‘adultification’ of black boys from about age ten years, black girls showed a higher disportionate rate of disciplinary action than even black boys, thought due to ‘gender transgressions’ (violating norms of femininity).

What adults project onto children affects the way children see themselves. So, what happens when children are seen as less innocent and more adult like (whether ‘adultified’ or parentified)? are punished more harshly? and given less nurturing? Do they grow up perceiving themselves to be ‘bad’ and unworthy of their longings for [inter]dependency, comfort, and help? Do they feel undeserving of tender caring and instead are the caregivers, or, worse, so bereft of receiving care that their subsequent and understandable resentment and anger lead to lashing out, even becoming the delinquents others expected all along?

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