On April 20, 2021, police shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio. While some folks are debating whether the shooting was justified or not, others like myself are thinking about how we can do a better job of showing up and protecting Black girls.
It’s no secret that Black girls are disproportionately mistreated compared to other girls. Girlhood Interrupted, a study by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality found that adults view Black girls as more adult-like and less innocent than white girls.
They also discovered that adults think Black girls as young as 5 need less protection and nurturing than their white peers.
So what do we do with this information? How do give Black girls the childhood that their peers get to experience? How can we show up for them?
The first thing you can do to show up for Black girls is to educate yourself on what they go through. Even if you’ve lived the experience as a Black woman, a refresher on what it’s truly like to be a girl during the adolescent years can still be helpful.
Talk to Black girls about what they are dealing with on a day to day basis. Ask them questions and then listen to their answers.
Be conscious of your microaggressions. Do you know what that means? If not, learn what it is and then make sure you aren’t exacting any on the girls in your life.
Read one of the many books out there about the Black girl experience.
It’s difficult to show up for people you don’t even know. Educate yourself.
Support “average” girls
A Black girl doesn’t have to be on the honor roll, or a successful entrepreneur for her to be deserving of support. Make sure you’re not holding Black girls to a different level of expectations that they have to meet in order for you to show up for them.
Girls who are troubled or struggling also deserve to be protected. Their issues don’t make them less of a child.
Speak up when They’re BEing mistreated
If you witness a Black girl being treated poorly, use your privilege (whatever that may be) to stand up for her.
I know it can be uncomfortable to put yourself out there, especially if you don’t have all of the information. The reality, however, is this, if you see any child being mistreated they will need an adult to intervene.
Be that adult whenever possible.
Allow Black girls to be carefree
Children are going to misbehave. They’re going to make mistakes. They are wired to be loud and annoying and to frustrate adults. It’s just what kids do. Give Black girls the same permission to be as carefree as their peers.
Even if they seem mature, shield them from things that chip away at their innocence. Let Black girls have a childhood.
Teach your kids to understand what Black girls go through.
Support organizations that support Black girls
One of the ways that Black girls (and the Black community in general) are underserved is financially. If there is an organization in your community that supports Black girls, support them. Show up as a fiscal sponsor, a mentor, or volunteer.
Ask not what Black girls can do for you, ask what you can do for a Black girl.
And then do it.