By: Chynna Benson
Young black women are often mischaracterized because of the way they look, dress, and speak. Unfortunately, this can be attributed to systematic issues such as a racism and patriarchy. The result is consequences that are long-lasting and damaging to the lives of black and brown girls starting at very young age. One of those consequences is the criminalization of black girls, a huge reason why the Love Your Magic Conference was founded. Statistically, girls of color are being punished at disproportionate rates:
- Black girls are six times more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions
- Excessive discipline in school makes Black girls ten-times more likely to have experiences with law enforcement
There are a lot of factors that contribute to the potentially harmful dynamic between educational environments and black girls. They include teacher bias, such as the perception that white girls are more innocent than black girls, as well as a lack of mental health resources. For black girls, the potential of retention later on in life because of unfair punishments can lead to increased difficulty in school, fulfilling career goals, and maintaining mental health.
Monique W. Morris, the author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School, emphasizes that while we shouldn’t underestimate the resiliency of our girls, it’s critical that they have the help of concerned adults to “help them construct a new narrative.” To change the narrative would be to put prevalence on the reality our girls live over what other people’s perceptions of them may be. And, at the same time, attempt to change institutions as a community.
Advocate for learning environments that embrace black girls. Young students will say that a caring teacher is most important to them in a learning environment, but it is important to remember that begins with a welcoming environment. When struggling to identity whether or not your school has harmful practices informed by racial bias, Let Her Learn: Stop School Push Out for Girls of Color tool-kit, is a resource that provides insight into whether or not your school’s discipline policy is treating girls of color fairly and familiarizes you with your rights and ways to help change your school’s policy.
Love your magic. The conference aims to teach self-advocacy, self-love, and sisterhood. Be aware of how the media and society impacts the self-esteem of black girls and present positive black images - be sure to initiate conversations about inner-strength and inner-beauty. Encourage young black girls to be vocal about their goals and their dreams - they’ll continue to build their confidence to self-advocate for themselves and be better equipped to support and love each other.