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"they cry because they are not allowed to be children at all"
March 12, 2014 12:09 PM   Subscribe

"Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent."
The social category “children” defines a group of individuals who are perceived to be distinct, with essential characteristics including innocence and the need for protection (Haslam, Rothschild, & Ernst, 2000). The present research examined whether Black boys are given the protections of childhood equally to their peers. We tested 3 hypotheses: (a) that Black boys are seen as less “childlike” than their White peers, (b) that the characteristics associated with childhood will be applied less when thinking specifically about Black boys relative to White boys, and (c) that these trends would be exacerbated in contexts where Black males are dehumanized by associating them (implicitly) with apes (Goff, Eberhardt, Williams, & Jackson, 2008). We expected, derivative of these 3 principal hypotheses, that individuals would perceive Black boys as being more responsible for their actions and as being more appropriate targets for police violence. We find support for these hypotheses across 4 studies using laboratory, field, and translational (mixed laboratory/field) methods. We find converging evidence that Black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their White same-age peers. Further, our findings demonstrate that the Black/ape association predicted actual racial disparities in police violence toward children. These data represent the first attitude/behavior matching of its kind in a policing context. Taken together, this research suggests that dehumanization is a uniquely dangerous intergroup attitude, that intergroup perception of children is underexplored, and that both topics should be research priorities.
posted by joannemerriam (41 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jamelle Bouie: Americans See Innocent Black Kids as Guilty Adults
When comparing felony acts by whites, blacks, and Latinos, respondents overestimated black boys’ ages by 4.53 years. Police officers, who were also included in the pool of participants, overestimated their ages by 4.59 years. To put this in more concrete terms, when participants saw a 14 year-old African American boy, they perceived him as an 18 to 19-year-old adult. And the effect of this was to deny the presumption of innocence—after all, adults are seen as fully responsible for their actions.

As Bump notes, this goes a long way toward explaining the disciplinary disparity between blacks and whites in public schools. It also helps us understand the generalized fear of black teenagers (see: “the knockout game”) as well as the regular stories of police confrontation and brutality, from the 14-year-old who was choked and beaten for his “dehumanizing stare” to the other 14-year-old who was stopped, frisked, and sexually assaulted.

During the George Zimmerman trial, right-wing bloggers circulated a photo of the “real Trayvon Martin” who, in their telling, was a muscled, heavily-tattooed thug, not an innocent 17-year-old.

In reality, it was a picture of The Game, a 34-year-old rapper. If you want a clearer illustration of what bias and racism can do to people, there it is.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:13 PM on March 12 [70 favorites]


Those are some depressingly unsurprising findings. I'd like to see a similar study done on just how often shit like Steubenville goes down, where basically white dudes get off with a slap on the wrist when the average non-white/non-dude would be punished much more harshly (and/or as an adult). It'd be interesting to compare the perception results documented here with the relative rates/degrees of punishment and see how they track.
posted by axiom at 12:21 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


This is fascinating research in an area of discrimination that I wouldn't have even considered. Thank you for posting.

I was recently listening to CBC radio and it had a segment on Somalian children in Canada (either immigrants themselves, or Canadian born children of immigrants) and the assumptions made about them, that they are more violent than other boys and so on. It's horrible when we can't even take children as the fairly simple & transparent beings they are, but put all these additional layers of motives upon them, and then treat them as though these assumptions were true. Jesus how that shapes a kid.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:22 PM on March 12


For example: 15 year old black kid suspended for flashing the same sign as his white friends. Comes with handy guide to gang signs, courtesy of Keith Knight.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:26 PM on March 12 [10 favorites]


A really interesting note about this study is it shows "felony suspected" and "misdemeanor suspected" separately. On the chart, it shows that when it's "misdemeanor suspected", both white and Latinos were perceived as older than black youth. Only when it's "felony suspected" does it shoot up to almost twice as much.

I have no idea what that means - except maybe the implication is that committing misdemeanors is just boys being boys?
posted by corb at 12:27 PM on March 12


oh - except for police, where it's really, freakishly radical. It looks like for police, felony-suspected whites are actually believed to be two years younger than they actually are. Misdemeanors, only half a year older. While for both blacks and latinos/Hispanic, it was at least two years older each time.
posted by corb at 12:31 PM on March 12


Really, this is a FFP where you need to read what all the study entails. The first study involved (page 5 of the pdf)

"One hundred twenty-three students from a large public university participated in this study in exchange for course credit. Ninety-six percent (128) were female"
"Participants were randomly assigned to one of three between-subjects conditions. They were asked to report the perceived innocence of White children, Black children, or children generally (i.e., without race specified).

Study 2 (page 6) is also public university students. "In Study 2 participants were asked to make evaluations within a criminal justice context, examining whether perceptions of innocence differed by target race and the severity of crimes committed"

Studies 3 a and 3b involve police officers, but Study 4 is back to university students (page 12.)
posted by Ideefixe at 12:39 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, Paul Ryan blames poverty on "inner city men... not even thinking about working."
posted by entropone at 12:46 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]


Which odd, most of the guys I know in the inner city who don't work are trophy husbands or burning through family money. Werid that.
posted by The Whelk at 12:49 PM on March 12 [14 favorites]


Them Duke boys never hurt anyone.
posted by srboisvert at 1:04 PM on March 12 [8 favorites]


Paul Ryan is the perfect Ann Randian. Hates welfare but used his father's death benefits to pay for college.

Anyway, so if we are perceiving black kids as being more responsible for their behavior then we should also concurrently lower the voting age for them n'est pas?
Oh.
Wait.
That would be unfair for the Kemosabe.
posted by edgeways at 1:05 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]


Every time I think I am beyond surprise or disappointment about something, I am proven wrong. Goddamn it.
posted by rtha at 1:13 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]


"One hundred twenty-three students from a large public university participated in this study in exchange for course credit. Ninety-six percent (128) were female"

100% of whom would deny being the racists that they so obviously are.
posted by three blind mice at 1:32 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


How depressing and disappointing.
posted by zarq at 1:33 PM on March 12


Paul Ryan is the perfect Ann Randian. Hates welfare but used his father's death benefits to pay for college.

Death benefits from social security into which his father had paid all his working life. Not straight out welfare, in other words.* (And education's a pretty good use of the money, let us all agree. I've known other teenagers in like circumstances who spent it on moonpies and pennywhistles.)

I'm no fan of Ryan, but let's keep the apples and oranges straight.

*(Though we can get into a whole other argument on the nature of transfer payments and how they are really funded, and whether SS is your money or just a Ponzi scheme. For the sake of this argument, it was Ryan senior's legitimate legacy for his surviving relatives.)
posted by IndigoJones at 1:53 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


It would probably be pretty okay just in general not to turn this into a discussion of Paul Ryan, really.
posted by cortex at 1:57 PM on March 12 [23 favorites]


This study seems to explain the "why" behind the results of a study that showed moving away from impoverished neighborhoods was positive for Black girls and negative for Black boys in terms of mental health.
posted by vespabelle at 2:04 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


I haven't read the links yet but I wish I could favorite this post 1000 times. One of the worst people I've ever known was a Teach for America girl (read: poor innercity schools) who loved to regale me with tales of how she was extra tough and menacing with her jr high boys "so they would take her seriously." But if you're 13 and even your 23 year old teacher treats you like a convict that has to be threatened on order to behave?? Yeah, it has an effect.
posted by polly_dactyl at 2:07 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]


When I read stuff like this, I always remember the shit I used to get away with gorwing up in the suburbs. This one Canada Day where I was about 17, my friends and I were drinking and smoking something less than legal while wandering the suburbs from parks to parking lots, as teenagers often did in the neighbourhood. A couple of my friends were kicking around a hacky sack, and one managed to launch it up onto the roof of the mall (which was maybe 15 feet high). We forgot about it for the time and tried to figure out a way to get downtown, where Canada Day festivities were in full swing. Eventually we decided on a cab, I was not thrilled because I didn't have much money but between all of us we could manage. Or so I thought. We get downtown, and apparently I hadn't been let in on the plan. 3 of my friends just took off running. I didn't have enough to cover it so I ran off too, scared. I could hear we were being followed by the taxi driver on foot. We scaled a fence into a used car lot, turned a corner, and hid under cars for a few minutes. Eventually the cab driver left and we came out from our hiding places, and I'm pretty pissed off. So anyways, I get over it and more underage drinking and smoking ensued. We went into any bars we could get into without being IDed. We catch a bus home, which drops us off at night in the same parking lot where my friends earlier lost their hacky sack. My friends, now very drunk, decide "hey lets go up on the roof and get it!" I'm not much of a climber so I stayed down on the ground while they laughed and smashed fluorescent lights that were for some reason sitting on the roof. They found the hacky sack and were scaling back down when 2 cop cars come screaming into the parking lot. They caught a couple of my friends on the way down, and did the "shine flashlight in face" thing while taking our names and explaining that they were going to charge us with trespassing. My friends, despite earlier being assholes to me with the taxi thing, were careful to point out that I had not gone on the roof and actually was just on my way home (I did live very close by). One of the cops says "doesn't matter, you're an accessory". It must be said I was also drunk, because my reply was to look him in the eye and say "accessory to trespassing?" in that snarky 90s teenager way. He got a bit mad and said "YOU. JUST GO HOME." So I did.

I read about how minority youth are treated by the authorities and when I think about the things we did that day, I realize things could have gone much differently had we not been white and in the suburbs. Drugs, theft, trespassing, vandalism, underage drinking, talking back to cops--and this is before you try and spin any of it negatively. I get sent home, not so much as a slap on the wrist. This night was not an isolated incident either; we and almost everyone we knew regularly did things like this as teenagers. This was the closest we white suburban teenagers came to consequences.
posted by Hoopo at 2:23 PM on March 12 [35 favorites]


Anyway, so if we are perceiving black kids as being more responsible for their behavior then we should also concurrently lower the voting age for them n'est pas?
Oh.
Wait.
That would be unfair for the Kemosabe.


That, and they don't want young black men to vote anyways.

Where's that recently linked stat that in several states 30% of black men can't vote because of BS drug convictions?
posted by emptythought at 2:35 PM on March 12


This breaks my heart. Ever since Trayvon Martin's murder, I keep thinking about how small a difference there is between my kid and that kid and what it would be like to look at the beautiful face of my child and know that this vicious, murderous hatred is out there, waiting for him, and that every day he wasn't targeted would be a miracle.
posted by emjaybee at 3:24 PM on March 12 [11 favorites]


Vespabelle: Exactly. I heard that story on NPR and was stunned that they never considered racism and expectations of danger as a possible explanation.

Instead, the attitude was more like "Weird. I can't imagine why it would be any different for boys" and made no reference to the race of these poor, public housing residents whatsoever.
posted by msalt at 3:46 PM on March 12


100% of whom would deny being the racists that they so obviously are.

The most charitable interpretation I can possibly come up with is that it's less pure racism, and more lack of exposure. How do you learn how to accurately assess age? By being around people of a certain age, enough for the human brain to start recognizing patterns. But what do you do if you don't get enough of that pattern input? You're going to be off, sometimes radically, in your estimations.

Though maybe I'm just hoping there, because it's easier to provide exposure than to erase racism.
posted by corb at 5:37 PM on March 12


The most charitable interpretation I can possibly come up with is that it's less pure racism, and more lack of exposure.

I think there is very little of what we might call "pure racism" out there nowadays. That's pretty obvious and can be confronted and addressed on its face. Individual racists maybe staying at home and being hatey. Fuck 'em.

However it gets insidious when you have a bunch of people who, for whatever reason, have internalized racist beliefs whether or not they are otherwise racist, racist-acting or consciously having any deep seated racial prejudices. And so people who seem themselves as not-really-racist wind up having low key prejudices as shown in these studies and yes since it's seen as not-really-racist like the pure racist straw man, people kind of toss up their hands, make apologies and don't actually deal with the fact that people holding these beliefs, multiplied by a large population many of whom are in decision-making positions (either by being job-hirers, people on juries, people in an admissions office) creates a country that is actually racist.

At some point, for whatever reason, enough people making these sorts of judgments creates a society where people of differing races need to be legally protected from the abuses of people in power (not all of whom are white, but who are by and large white) and that's a shameful situation whether any individual person might have some sort of pattern-input-paucity problem or not. That's focusing on the wrong thing. And pointing at individuals and saying "They didn't really mean it, they're not really racist" is focusing on the wrong thing too.
posted by jessamyn at 5:46 PM on March 12 [23 favorites]


I hear BS like this all the time. "Why don't they turn welfare into workfare?" has been the latest thing to make the rounds. Saying, "They did. Almost 20 years ago," is getting real old.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:14 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


The most charitable interpretation I can possibly come up with is that it's less pure racism, and more lack of exposure. How do you learn how to accurately assess age? By being around people of a certain age, enough for the human brain to start recognizing patterns. But what do you do if you don't get enough of that pattern input? You're going to be off, sometimes radically, in your estimations.

In study 4, which looked at interactions between perceptions of essential differences between childhood and adulthood, dehumanization, and race, they matched the stimulus pictures on perceived and not chronological age via pretesting.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:09 PM on March 12


>"One hundred twenty-three students from a large public university participated in this study in exchange for course credit. Ninety-six percent (128) were female"

I find myself reluctant to put too much trust in the statistical findings of a study whose authors think 128 is ninety-six percent of 123.
posted by polymath at 8:28 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Obviously "one hundred twenty-three" should read "one hundred thirty-three". Typo.

The statistical methods are pretty typical for psychology studies of this sort - t-tests with Bonferroni adjustment for multiple measures for study 1, repeated-measures ANOVA for study 2, 3a, and 4, and multivariate linear regression models for studies 3a and 3b. They did a little fancypantsing with some regression modeling to get into interaction terms, including some bootstrapping models to look at how some of the variables acted together to mediate age estimates. Mostly pretty pedestrian stuff.
posted by gingerest at 9:44 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Growing up in the middle of DC as a diminutive and fluorescently white kid, a decade before gentrification somehow became cool, I got to see a lot of white people show me their racism.

I've gotten to watch with my friends all the white people clear out of establishments when we arrived, how spontaneously segregated the local Six Flags gets by going on some school trips and then other ones, but what has really amazed me has been the things white people have confided in me about their racism. Its all the adults, family friends and absolute strangers, over the years who saw me in my neighborhood, decided it was not safe enough for me, and offered to drive me home. It is the amazement that would wash across peoples faces when I told them I lived in a neighborhood they would never walk near. It is how EVERY SINGLE TIME I got in any trouble with anyone else, I always received less consequences by orders of magnitude or nothing. I once got into a completely co-created fight over milk in a lunch line at the middle school I bussed to in a white neighborhood, just a reasonably simple WTF misunderstanding neither of us were willing to back down from. When it was broken up, we were both equivalently bruised, both equally at fault, and both pretty quickly sorry when we figured out what had actually happened. I got to wait fifteen minutes after school as a kind of pathetic timeout, while he ended up with two weeks suspension and told that if anything else happened he'd be expelled and sent to the black middle school with stabbings we were both in boundary for. This was plainly racist, but what has always stuck with me was the explanation I was given for why this was the case. I was told by my principal, still a white liberal martyr hero in DC, that there were many differences between the other student and I; that I was a better student, that I was more serious about my education, that I hadn't been in as much trouble before, and that I was fitting into the middle school better. I knew none of this was true. He was a C student where I was struggling for Ds, he worked damn hard to get himself away from the middle school DC's boundaries destined us both for while I had never needed to take anything seriously, I was a worse trouble maker than he ever was, and I had few friends while he had many. This goes some way towards explaining it better.

Most of the white people I have ever seen given a chance to demonstrate racism have, in some way or another.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:54 AM on March 13 [18 favorites]


I found this paper to be somewhat frustrating. It repeatedly (and, as far as I can tell, exclusively) frames 'being treated like a child' as an unqualified benefit to the individuals in question: white adolescents are said to be afforded the "privilege of innocence", and to receive "the benefits of childhood", whereas black adolescents are "not allowed to be children", are "vulnerable to being treated like adults" and "enjoy fewer of the basic human protections afforded to their peers because the category 'children' is seen to be a less essential category (specifically, less distinct from adults) when it is applied to Black children" (emphasis all mine) etc. This tone pervades the paper (not just those parts regarding criminal culpability).

Of course, it is certainly true that there are situations and systems in which being perceived as childlike does confer an advantage, and the US criminal justice system is a particularly important example, so this study is definitely useful. However, there is another side to that coin: setting criminal culpability aside, being treated as an adult can often be desirable. All else being equal, I would expect that someone who is perceived to be more childlike would be: less likely to have their opinions and views taken seriously, less likely to have their statements believed by others, more likely to be treated as inferior by others etc. That is to say, a child is regarded as having less agency and less competence, generally.

It seems strange that the authors don't address the issue of potential disadvantages of being perceived as childlike, because they explicitly investigate the phenomenon of dehumanization (which they define as the "denial of full humanness to others") in this study, a concept which seems to me to have some pretty deep links to both racism and infantilization. Racist infantilization as a means of dehumanization is a tactic with a lot of history: if you can conceive of a group of people as like children, then it becomes easier to deny their agency and ignore what would otherwise be considered fundamental human rights. And of course, in contemporary society, being treated as a child is dehumanizing in itself, by the authors' definition: children are not typically afforded all of the "basic human protections" that are regarded as inalienable from adults (freedom of speech, freedom of movement, a right to privacy etc), because they are, in some sense, regarded by the dominant culture as not (yet) fully human (for example, we have the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights", but not all of it is generally held to apply to children).

So the results presented in this paper do seem to have sort of a paradoxical edge to them: on one hand, (the racist aspect of) American culture has, historically, to some extent, attempted to regard and treat black people as though they were children and thereby dehumanize them by denying their human agency, while on the other hand, as this paper shows, it also sometimes elevates black adolescents closer to the status of adults (regards them as having greater agency than white adolescents, and therefore increased culpability for criminal acts). My intuition here is that it's probably a 'can't win' situation: it seems to me that racism and racist sytems will encourage and exhibit whatever biases or attitudes would most disadvantage the oppressed group, without regard to consistency (so, when it's good to be regarded as a child, the oppressed group will be viewed as an adult and vice versa).

So, I think that's an interesting question there that the authors don't really discuss or address: they provide evidence that black adolescents are regarded to be less childlike when context is removed completely (as in Study 1), and are regarded as less childlike when being treated as a child would be beneficial to them (that is, when evaluating culpability, as in Studies 2 and 3), but I'd be interested to see a study that investigates this effect in a context in which being perceived as childlike would be a disadvantage. Would the effect persist unchanged, disappear, or be reversed?
posted by polychora at 5:04 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


jessamyn: "I think there is very little of what we might call "pure racism" out there nowadays. That's pretty obvious and can be confronted and addressed on its face. Individual racists maybe staying at home and being hatey. Fuck 'em.

However it gets insidious when you have a bunch of people who, for whatever reason, have internalized racist beliefs whether or not they are otherwise racist, racist-acting or consciously having any deep seated racial prejudices.
"

Or, as Ta-Nehisi Coates put it:
Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. Black America ever lives under that skeptical eye. Hence the old admonishments to be “twice as good.” Hence the need for a special “talk” administered to black boys about how to be extra careful when relating to the police.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:07 AM on March 13 [8 favorites]


Jessamyn: I think there is very little of what we might call "pure racism" out there nowadays. That's pretty obvious and can be confronted and addressed on its face. Individual racists maybe staying at home and being hatey. Fuck 'em.
While I totally agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates's quote above and grok what you mean, I have to say: here in southwestern Virginia out-loud visible racism is alive and well. It's much diminished from when I was a kid, but you don't have to look too hard. Those kind of racists run in social circles where it's the norm and they aren't confronted. When they say stupid stuff in public and someone calls them on it, it goes down very much like you see "acceptable" prejudice confronted: you know how people feel comfortable saying anti-gay things because that's their religion / upbringing / common sense / duh?

A few years ago I was at an open-to-the-public event and heard an off-duty law enforcement officer from an adjacent county refer to the current President as the N-word in casual speech. It wasn't even the emphasis of the sentence. When he was called on it, he acted like it was nothing and we were trying to restrict his free speech.

I have no illusions that he was treating the local accused with clearer thought than he was treating a sitting President.

This sort of thing isn't so rare around here that it makes for notable telling at yearly gatherings; you know what I'm saying?
posted by introp at 6:27 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Thanks tonycpsu, that's actually a really great and thought provoking article, aside from just the pull quote. Much appreciated.
posted by corb at 7:33 AM on March 13


Indigo Jones, if you take a look at the history and purpose of SSI, you'll see that it is neither a ponzi scheme nor a retirement or savings account. It is a tax imposed on those who are currently working to assist those who are currently not working. This is an important fact to remember when you are deconstructing issues such as those you address above.
posted by janey47 at 9:24 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


White participants who were subliminally exposed to images of apes before watching a video of police beating a Black man were more likely to endorse that beating, despite the extremity of the violence. Participants did not, however, endorse the same beating when the suspect was White or when they had not been primed with the ape image.

Every time I start to think my faith in humanity couldn't fall any lower. I can understand how those tests of good and bad word associations with black people and white people would be highlighting a similar disgusting aspect of human behaviour and prejudice, but this is much more visceral in impact.

And how anyone can look at a video of police beating someone and endorse the beating, just makes my blood run cold. No-one deserves a beating from the police. No-one. Ever.
posted by talitha_kumi at 10:23 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


this might be the best post in a year
posted by maiamaia at 4:38 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


All else being equal, I would expect that someone who is perceived to be more childlike would be: less likely to have their opinions and views taken seriously, less likely to have their statements believed by others, more likely to be treated as inferior by others etc. That is to say, a child is regarded as having less agency and less competence, generally ... I'd be interested to see a study that investigates this effect in a context in which being perceived as childlike would be a disadvantage. Would the effect persist unchanged, disappear, or be reversed?

The studies of age assessment aren't about adults being perceived as childlike - they're about children aged 10 to 17.

What do you think of as a setting where it's a disadvantage for a child or adolescent to be perceived as a child? All I can think of is examples where the child seeks access to materials, rights, or occasions restricted to adults, which are generally restricted because adolescents may not be able or willing to make measured decisions regarding the restricted thing's potential to harm. Being thought to be able to make adult decisions before one is an adult is not a situation with clear benefit to the child. I can't think of anything that doesn't fit into that category.
posted by gingerest at 5:11 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Ron Paul's newsletters echoed this idea explicitly.
posted by homunculus at 7:16 PM on March 13


talitha_kumi, we're all capable of thinking and doing ugly things we'd never imagine under appropriate conditions, as history's shown and social psychology in general has been trying to explain. Good to shine a light on it to the extent we can - it at least suggests a direction. Like that maybe, storytellers have obligations.

From the 2008 paper (pdf) this set of studies built on: Here, we argue that implicit knowledge of racial associations can be equally strong. “Apelike” is not a stereotype that people typically list as associated with Blacks. It is not an association that immediately springs to mind. It is not an association that is deliberately contemplated and openly discussed. People deny explicit awareness of this association, yet because the association is maintained in metaphors, visual tropes, and through the convergence of other related stereotypes, these factors alone—without the aid of explicit awareness—could perpetuate a Black–ape association.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:37 PM on March 13


> What do you think of as a setting where it's a disadvantage for a child or adolescent to be perceived as a child?

Okay, you've asked for specific examples, so here are a few hypothetical situations in which I think it's pretty clear that it's to one's advantage to be regarded as less childlike:

- You have a part-time job. If you are perceived as less childlike, your colleagues and managers may estimate your competence more highly, and your managers may be more willing to assign you additional responsibility. So a person perceived as less childlike may be likely to receive higher wages and greater opportunity for advancement.
- You and your psychologist both agree that you are transgender, but your parents are religious fundamentalists who are highly opposed to the idea of you taking puberty-delaying hormone blockers. You're in a jurisdiction in which a third party has some discretion in determining whether it is your own or your parents' wishes which will be respected. If you are perceived by that third party as less childlike (and therefore more able to make considered decisions), I'd imagine that you are more likely to receive the medical services you need.
- You are in a social situation amongst adults. If you are perceived as less childlike, other people may be more likely to view you as a peer, and it may be easier to cultivate relationships with them. Aside from the immediate social benefit, these relationships may benefit you in the future in all sorts of ways (someone might recommend you for a job etc).

So, if it were the case that young people of a particular skin color were treated as more childlike in situations like the ones above, then yeah, I reckon that's probably going to have a cumulative effect of conferring an disadvantage on those people. That's why I'd intuitively expect the effect shown in this paper to be reversed in cases like these, so that the oppressed group would still be at a disadvantage.

> access to materials, rights, or occasions restricted to adults, which are generally restricted because adolescents may not be able or willing to make measured decisions regarding the restricted thing's potential to harm

More broadly (and I will try not to get too far into this line of discussion lest it becomes a derail), I don't agree with the premise that the restrictions placed on adolescents who are regarded as children are generally to the benefit of those individuals. For example, I don't think that denying a 17 year old person the franchise has the primary effect or intention of 'protecting' them from the 'harm' of voting, nor do I think that giving other people the right to compel a person to attend religious indoctrination, or to deny them access to emergency contraception or information about safe sexual activity, is to their benefit.

I also think there is good justification for being extremely skeptical of any line of argument which can be boiled down to "But we have to coercively override their agency for their own good!" (where 'they' are a distinct group from the 'we' that is doing the ruling), because, ubiquitously throughout history, it's been employed (in my opinion, almost exclusively) to justify evil acts and systems: colonialism, patriarchy, recreational drug prohibition, medical paternalism, aristocracy, slavery, monarchy, wars of aggression, oppression of sexual and gender minorities, countless varieties of censorship, suppression of religious freedom, and of course, racism. That's not to say it's a justification which can never be valid, but I do think it's worth being particularly careful with arguments of that form.
posted by polychora at 11:39 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


polychora -
Any benefits for children being assumed to be adults, would only be true if 'Adulthood' is being equated or correlated with 'Competency'.

Unfortunately, we have no evidence in this study that people ARE equating adulthood with competency in black children. If they are making associations between black children and... apes? Yeah. I doubt that is the case.
There is every chance that black children are being caught in the bind of having all the negative associations of adulthood, and none of the positive ones, and unless a study is made of those positive correlations, I don't think we can assume any positive correlations exist.


***


Anyway, what this study suggests?
Yes, I've seen this myself. When I was 15/16, and had a same-age male (darker-skinner) Indian (ie from India, not America) friend visiting me in the very white*, small town. I got asked by multiple classmates who my weird older friend was.
He wasn't older. He was just browner. :P
This one girl, I mentioned he was actually the same age as us.
A year or two after this, somehow it came up again, and she asked who that '30-something' guy was. I repeated that he'd actually been about 16.
Almost 10 years later, I bumped into her a few times in the big city I'd moved back to (where me and my friend were both from), and SOMEHOW, it came up AGAIN. And again, I pointed out he was 16, and she giggled, and said, "Oh, I thought he was like 30 or something".
Yes, I know that, because this is the third time I have had this conversation with you!.


We're not even going to get into how happy people were that the local racist 'Motorcycle Club' "good ol' boy" aka raping, murdering, drug dealing thugs were keeping those 'big city' (brown) gangs out of town.
Seriously, that town had some of the worst gang related violence and intimidation I'd seen, but at least it was white, yeah?
It still makes me so angry.


* My friend was visiting for two weeks. Half way through the second week he came home, really excited... He had seen another Indian.
The guy was in a car.
The guy slowed down and waved.
posted by Elysum at 5:06 PM on March 18


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