Adultification Bias Against Black Justice-Involved Children
The troubling relationship between race and the decision to try in juvenile court or waive to the adult system supports the idea that our society values childhood differently for children of different races. The implication is that white children are more childlike and innocent, while Black children cannot afford to be children. While the devaluation of Black childhood is a phenomenon that began much earlier in U.S. history than the juvenile court and has its own set of implications for African Americans more broadly, it is interesting to trace the effects of adultification on Black youth involved in the justice system specifically. Doing so reveals crucial shortcomings of the juvenile justice system stemming from the differential and subjective application of the social class “child” to children of different races. This paper seeks to shed light on the detrimental effects of adultification, defined as “adults’ generalized perception of Black [children] as more adult” than white children (Epstein et al. 2017: 17), on Black justice-involved youth. In particular, this paper will focus on the relationship between the adultification of Black youth and the disproportionate use of the waiver system against them.