Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Sandra Bland and Philando Castile are just a few of the names that come up when talking about police brutality within the last five years. While these stories have dominated headlines, the discussion of police brutality doesn’t end with listing the names of Black adults. In fact, it only starts there.
Abbie VanSickle and Weihua Li of The Marshall Project have teamed up with USA Today to illuminate a very important issue in America, police brutality against Black children. Li, VanSickle and several other researchers recently examined data provided by “six large police departments” from 2015 through 2020. As expected, the data did not paint a pretty picture for Black youth.
Over the course of five years, the data presented 4,000 different use-of-force incidents involving children that were 17 years old or younger. Approximately 55% of the time, young Black boys were the subject of these incidents. Not far behind, 800 or 20% of these incidents involved a young Black girl. Together, Black children make up 75% of these incidents, but only 13% of the nation’s youth population.
Digging deeper into the data, The Marshall Project found a disturbing disparity in the way that young Black girls were treated by cops and the way young white girls were policed. Their data found that police are six times more likely to use force against a young Black girl than a young white girl. Moreover, data presented by the city of New Orleans found that officers never used force on young white girls, only young Black girls.
“Our deeply embedded biases about Black children being dangerous applies both to boys and girls, and I think we forget that,” Georgetown Law professor Kristin Henning told The Marshall Project.
“We wouldn’t even think about stopping a white girl in quite the way we stop a Black girl.”
The startling report also mentions that these use-of-force incidents are often kickstarted by small nuisances like “a teenager throwing candy at a store clerk” or “a group of girls swimming at a condo complex’s pool.” Sometimes these incidents can result in parents being called or kids being handcuffed. In other cases, officers may bodyslam children, throw them against a squad card or engage in other actions that may land a child in the hospital.
Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley found that use-of-force incidents landed 16,000 California youths in the hospital. After looking deeper into the data, researchers found that Black girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were four times more likely to be hurt than white girls. Nationwide, the results are not much different.
From 2015 to 2019, the CDC collected data pertaining to minors being admitted to emergency rooms for nonfatal injuries at the hands of police. Of the 21,000 incidents recorded by the CDC, 33.3% involved Black youth under the age of 18. However, The Marshall Project reports that Black adolescents only make up 13% of the youth population.
“[These findings] highlight the ways in which Black girls are uniquely harmed by policing,” University of California, Berkeley researcher Kriszta Farkas told The Marshall Project.
“The protections of childhood are not afforded to all children.”
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
For more mental health resources, click HERE.