Adultification Bias and Brutality Against Black Girls Must Stop

Adultification Bias and Brutality Against Black Girls Must Stop

Rochester almost got through the entire first month of the new year without an incident of the Rochester Police Department (RPD) using excessive force on a citizen in mental distress.

This time the victim of that brutality is a 9-year-old Black girl who based on reports and statements from the RPD was having suicidal thoughts. The police initially responded to a 911 call to a home on Avenue B for “family trouble.” Upon arriving the officers were approached by the girl’s mother stating that she feared the child would harm herself or others. The girl then ran to nearby Harris Street where she was apprehended by police and the situation eventually escalated to the point where the police officer forced the child to the ground, handcuffed her, and using excessive force ended up spraying the child in the face with pepper-spray.

As per usual with these types of situations, statement after statement began to trickle in from the media from leaders mostly absolving the department of any wrongdoing, not apologizing, defending their policies and taking zero accountability for the inhumanity that they had demonstrated. In a useless press conference with the media (on Sunday January 31) Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo was his usual deer caught in the headlights self, making contradictory half-statements, centering the “plight” of the officers, barely extending any compassion to the little girl and how she was handled, and providing zero clarity on why force was used and even less clarity of what policy change would come from the incident. Instead he spent much of the time blaming and shaming the child victim and appearing to indicate that somehow she deserved this treatment because there had been a prior incident of crisis. Part of his rambling included that were were no clear violations of policy in the pepper spraying a 9-year old handcuffed girl. Let me feign shock and surprise at his statement.

In this case, like all the others that have become common here in Rochester and across the country, the victim is never centered. Here we have a case of clear mental distress; this time from a 9-year-old child being treated like a criminal and not a child in a mental health crisis. She was forced to the ground by an adult in bitter cold snow, and instead of  the police calling the newly instated Person In Crisis team (since they clearly do not have the range to handle the situation) the officers revert to what they know best; excessive force, brutality, and violence.

It’s the insanity for me

Is the Rochester Police Department insane? Or do they just devalue the life of Black people so much that not even a Black 9-year-old undergoing a mental health crisis receives the empathy, humanity and compassion she deserves. It would just seem to me on the heels of everything that happened since last summer with the BLM protests, scrutiny and investigations into the handling of the murder of Daniel Prude at the hands of Rochester Police Department that one would think that all officers would be more self aware as to how they interact with the community right now. Especially Black community members. Even if we are to believe initial statements from Mayor Lovely Warren that the police responding to this initial call was appropriate, why didn’t the officers use common sense upon arrival and when recognizing that a mental health crisis was underway, not call this newly instated Person In Crisis team? Is there no common sense?

Already no one had much faith in this new crisis team and then right at the end of the first month of this new year in a situation that based on the information provided to the community so far would literally be the type of situation best handled by this crisis team,  the RPD fails to transfer its’ power and instead use the deeply entrenched tools that they always use on Black folks more than any other people; excessive force and violence. Then, to add further insult the community is bombarded with a myriad of excuses, victim shaming, victim blaming, gas-lighting, and zero accountability.

We have had enough

Every single time the police is caught being abusive and brutal, tactics that are deeply ingrained and part of its culture, the citizens are always asked to be patient. The Mayor and the Chief blithely dole out statements like:

“I’m very concerned about how this young girl was handled by our police department. It is clear from the video we need to do more in support of our children and families.”

The interim Police Chief Herriott-Sullivan:

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK. It’s not. I don’t see that as who we are as a department, and we’re going to do the work we have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen.”

When the victim is Black, we are told not to rush to judgement. We have to take our time and consider all the facts. Yet again these manipulative tactics are merely used as a way to deflect and deny.  More often than not, nothing will happen. Even in this instance the officers in question remain on duty.

The fact remains that we have all the facts we need. Black girls are perceived as needing less nurturing, comfort, and protection. This is known as “adultification.” This bias begins early; Black girls are seen as older and less innocent than their white peers starting as young as age 5. Compared to white girls of the same age, Black girls are perceived as needing less nurturing, comfort, and protection. We don’t have to imagine that the outcome of this incident would have gone differently had this little girl been white. The data tells us all that we need to know. Time after time we see instances of white people being handled with care and compassion while in police custody even after they have gunned down members of a church as in the case of Dylan Roof in 2015 or driven to another state to enact white supremacist vigilance on protests against police brutality as in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse in 2020. In both of these instances the police handled these murderers with care, humanity and compassion. Yet Black citizens don’t receive this treatment not even when no crime has been committed.

The Rochester Police Department, or any police department for that matter, is not able to fairly and equitably police itself. The system and culture of policing in the United States is morally, ethically, and legally corrupt and will always “cover up” its own wrongdoing. Reform has never worked. These instances are not new. What is different is the use of body worn cameras and cell phone footage. Even with the over abundance of evidence they deflect, lie, and lie again. When will Black Lives Matter?

Sources

  1. It’s not a simple situation’: Locust Club reacts to pepper spraying of 9-year-old girl | Democrat and Chronicle
  2. Rochester reacts to 9-year-old girl pepper-sprayed by the police | Democrat and Chronicle
  3. City of Rochester launches 24/7 Person In Crisis team for mental health assistance | Rochester First
  4. Why won’t society let Black girls be children? | New York Times 
  5. Little women: When Black girls are robbed of their childhood | ESME
  6. Black Girls Are Too Often Treated as Older Than They Are—and Suffer for It | Slate
  7. 17-Year-Old ‘Blue Lives Matter’ Fanatic Charged With Murder at Kenosha Protest | Daily Beast
  8. Cops bought Burger King for Dylan Roof following his arrest | ABC7
About Calvin Eaton

(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a disabled community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, equity, justice, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain, Inc. a virtual non-profit organization and antiracist education brand that promotes justice for all. The organization encourages individuals to broaden their horizons and learn more about multidisciplinary issues and topics that impact the world. 

Still thinking about how you can practice antiracism in your every day life? 

Your support goes directly to providing new, dynamic & affordable class content, the planning of a rigorous antiracism facilitation training program, and costs associated with making all of our classes Deaf accessible with ASL interpreters.

1) Join our growing membership base at patreon.com/540wmain
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  1. Visit our blog for over 700 social justice focused posts from our Founding Director, contributing writer Chris Thompson, and various guest writers.
  2. Check out our on-demand class library to learn about structural racism, environmental justice, and more.

Knowledge is power, educate yourself with 540WMain

Black vs. POC: A New But Outdated Term

Black vs. POC: A New But Outdated Term

I am not a person of color.  I am Black. 

This is a sentence that I have said to countless people– each time with more conviction. 

When hearing it, I feel as if my blackness is being lumped into a group without notice. 

It feels like a politically correct term for ‘colored people’.

The blanket term groups non-whites together despite each group being completely different.

As for Black people,“certain effects of racism — things like mass incarceration, police violence, inability to access good health care — disproportionately affect Black and Indigenous people. Not all “people of color.”

In an Op-Ed from 2019 by our new Vice President Kamala Harris, Harris tackled legalizing marijuana and helping those incarcerated for drug charges. 

Her hypocrisy is a whole ‘nother story. I want to focus on the language she uses in the piece. 

According to the ACLU, despite Blacks and Whites using pot at the same rates, Black people are 4x more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. 

As a former federal prosecutor, it’s safe to say she would be aware of that statistic. Yet, in an article about decriminalizing marijuana the word “Black’ is only said once.

“Data shows that a person of color is much more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana possession…,” said Harris. “…As a career prosecutor and former attorney general of California, I saw firsthand how counterproductive marijuana laws…[lead] to the disproportionate criminalization of black and brown people in particular.”

In a case where Back people are the center, they are still decentered. Despite those rates, despite making up more than a third of America’s prison population, it is still seen as a “poc” problem. 

I think POC is often used as a safe place for those who fear the word “Black”, much like how African-American is seen as a safer choice also. A lesson I have had to teach some is that not every Black person you see is African American. Some are Caribbean America, Hatian American, African and countless other nationalities could be woven into those identities. But as we know, “Black” carries negative connotations for white folks i.e. ghetto, violent, uneducated.

If American is tacked on at the end there, they seem less of a threat because they now see a connection between this person and themselves, once again centering themselves in our identity.

Now there has been an attempt to make POC even more pc: BIPOC. That stands for Black, Indigenous, people of color. I think the two, Black and Indiginous, are correct in being highlighted here. However, us holding onto the POC still doesn’t sit right with me. So many cultures, ethnicities, and races just swept under one rug.

I prefer Black and Brown and saying the specific race of others when known. 

Race descriptors have evolved overtime. From Colored, to Minorities, to POC. It feels like we have chosen to rebrand previous versions and call it progressive. Maybe it’s time to actually scrap the old for something new and ACTUALLY progressive. 

About Brianna Milon

Brianna is local media professional who loves writing, watching Netflix, and playing with her dog, Weenie and her cat, Fancy. She studied Journalism and Broadcasting at SUNY Brockport and was heavily involved in the campus radio station. Brianna also co-hosts a radio show, “Fat, Black, and Femme”, on 100.9 WXIR. You can find out more on Facebook and Blogspot.

Still thinking about how you can practice antiracism in your every day life? 

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Time to Come Together

Time to Come Together

By the time you read this, January 20th, 2021 will have passed, and barring another attempted mass insurrection, we will have a new President of the United States of America. I never held my tongue about how dark a chapter was written over the last four years, and I am glad that it is closing. There is no telling what the future will hold, but I am extremely hopeful and feel positive about the prospects. I’m an not pollyannish about the next four years; pragmatism is in my blood. However, I think that a lot of good can be accomplished. A more inclusive, progressive society can flourish so long as everyone does what they can to till the field. A lot of dust was kicked up in political and social battles, though. The first step in the right direction would be to set down our ideological weapons, swallow our pride, and reconcile with our opponents. We need to reach out and make peace.

I am not talking about the far right. To hell with them. They slept with actual nazis and let new ones in yellow and black to pop up (I really liked that color scheme). Your misogynist racist uncle is probably still going to be misogynist and racist, and you may not have time or emotional bandwidth to explain to him AGAIN how there is no such thing as a “Blue Life” outside of Smurf Village or Na’vi. I’m talking about reaching out those center-left, the folks who were so wrapped up in semantics that they may not have heard our message loud and clear. These are the “moderates” of whom Martin Luther King spoke while incarcerated in Birmingham. They are the folks who “just don’t understand” how the demonstrations of the summer devolved into violence when in the 1960s they were “peaceful”, but they will actually listen when you explain to them that the marches of the 1960s were met with the same amount of violence under the pretext of the law, and they were depicted in the media the same way today’s protests are. They have probably been sharing the memes about how we need to change the phrase “Defund the Police” to something more palatable, yet they like all of the years-long researched bullet points about how we should redistribute our taxpayer money to fund programs that reduce crime and the need for police presence in non-criminal incidents. Now is the time to talk to them, though we definitely will disagree, and feelings will be raw, and tears may be shed. Regardless, we will have to work together to see the change we desperately need.

This is where the term “agree to disagree” is actually a valid thing to say. Most of the time over the last four years, I heard the phrase in reference to the value of someone’s race, nationality, sexuality, or economic status. You cannot “agree to disagree” about a person’s humanity, though, which is what folks expected. I am not going to sit down with someone who thinks that person doesn’t “deserve” health care or a living wage because they are a fast food cook or addicted to drugs. I am more than happy to hash out how to give everyone similar health care regardless of their situation. The same goes for education. It is imperative that learn the distinction between arguments that question a policy and those that question the people affected by the policy. I believe this is possible.

The reason I am so hopeful is who is about to be inaugurated. Neither Joe Biden nor Kamala Harris were my first, second, third, or fourth choices for presidential candidates. However, they are who we have. The pragmatist in me knows that Bidens years of experience in the Legislature makes him a great negotiator, so there is a chance he will listen to folks and get policy passed. I am aware that the down side to him being in government for so long that he has long standing ties to the less savory parts of the process, like possibly being in the pockets of private lobbyists. There is still a chance that change can happen. His Cabinet choices are the most diverse in the Country’s history, which is a low bar given that most cabinets over the  last 230 years were made up of old white men. We will see soon if his picks were just routine Democratic check box marking, or if the people he chose plan to work, even if it means having a little tension with the President.

I’m also hopeful about the future because of Kamala Harris being his right hand. Again, I am aware of the negative sentiment around her, that she was a DA, and she’s a “cop”, and some other scandalous things about her ascendant career that are just plain false and misogynistic. A lot of the policies she upheld as a district attorney hurt a lot of poor Black and Brown folks in California, just as Biden’s crime bill of the 1990s did to the nation. However, I have yet to see anyone of her detractors on the left really put out anything except a few bullet points about her law enforcement background. Before her career, she was an activist in Oakland, CA, an epicenter of Black Activism and Black Power. She went to Howard University, the second best Historically Black University in the nation (Sorry, Bisons. but Morgan FOREVER). She was inducted into the first and oldest Historically Black Sorority. I don’t know where her head is at, but I grew up in a similar background, matured in a similar academic environment, and learned similar lessons through my matriculation. It may be my sense of pride that drives my feeling, but folks who went to HBCUs are always able to adapt and succeed. We are taught that from freshman year, whether we were art or aerospace majors. I feel like she’d be willing to listen, change, and proceed.

Despite not having our first choices to lead us, so long as we’re pragmatic and willing to reach out to the moderates, we can make a better nation, one that truly reflects the values it advertises. We need to come together and hold them accountable to the promises they made. Most importantly if they don’t we know exactly what to do: VOTE LOCALLY, and VOTE EVERY CHANCE WE HAVE EVERY YEAR. If we don’t change the nation in four years, we can at least change our local community.

About Chris Thompson

(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog he currently writes and regularly posts on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon. Chris is also a regular contributor for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is http://www.chroniclesofnonesense.com

Still thinking about how you can practice antiracism in your every day life? 

1) Join our growing membership base at patreon.com/540wmain
2) Contribute to our ongoing annual fund at rally.org/540wmain

  1. Visit our blog for over 700 social justice focused posts from our Founding Director, contributing writer Chris Thompson, and various guest writers.
  2. Check out our on-demand class library to learn about structural racism, environmental justice, and more.

Knowledge is power, educate yourself with 540WMain

Ernest Flagler-Mitchell Needs to Resign

Ernest Flagler-Mitchell Needs to Resign

Two phrases that stuck with me the most from a summer of marches and protests:

  • All Black Lives Matter
  • We throw no one under the bus.

I felt these in my heart and soul. It is important to not dismiss anyone in our fight for equality, no matter what. And this is why Ernest Flagler-Mitchell should step down as local NAACP chapter president and Monroe County legislator.

He admitted to sending a lewd self-image to a 19-year-old woman. He claimed that the allegations, of him sending a lewd picture to the woman, are tantamount to extortion. He claimed that it was accidental. Some can speculate and deliberate over whether it was accidental or deliberate, but the claim of extortion is a bit much. And the fact is that he sent a lewd picture to a woman to whom he gave his phone number. Accident or not, an elected official should have the basic knowledge of his own phone to be sure he is sending a message to a designated recipient. If he can’t manage his own phone, I am a little bit worried about his professional acumen. This isn’t an autocorrect mistake. It is a whole picture, sent to someone who trusted him as a county official, after she experienced a tragedy.

“He sent a lewd picture to a woman to whom he gave his phone number”

I am well aware of the things at stake. Flagler-Mitchell is a Democratic legislator in a majority Republican legislature. The Republican chief of staff is all too eager to investigate the allegation. This may look bad for the local party’s integrity, but Republicans truly have no moral high ground here, as they spent the last four years backing a president who not only has multiple sexual assault allegations (including an ex-wife), but also bragged about sexually assaulting and harassing women. This is also a blow to the diversity of the county legislature, as a diverse government is statistically a more fair one. However, diversity at the expense of the safety of those it is supposed to serve is not worth it. The main thing about diversity is that the people in position must also be qualified. Sending an unsolicited lewd picture to a constituent is quite disqualifying.

This situation involves a Black man and a Black woman. Too many times we have bent over backwards to protect Black men in power at the expense of Black women’s safety. This is why R. Kelly was able to have a successful 25-year career when it was an open secret that he sexually assaulted young/underage girls, so much so that he briefly married his underage protégé. Most of the girls he preyed upon were Black, though, so folks let it slide and blamed the girls for being “fast”. Bill Cosby got away with drugging and assaulting women for over 40 years, but it wasn’t until white women came forward that courts took his claims seriously, and even then, it took about 15 years to do something. For too long, we claim that we are for all Black Lives, that we would never throw them under the bus, but when things get contentious, we throw Black women under the  bus in a heartbeat. We cannot do that this time.

I side-eye his claim of extortion, as the woman who came forward has absolutely nothing to gain from going public. She is opening herself to ridicule, slut-shaming, and threats on her life. If there is so much as a picture of her naked as a toddler in a bathtub, it will be used against her. Still, she was brave enough to come forward. She deserves all of our respect for that. The call for Flagler-Mitchell to resign is not throwing him under the bus. It is holding him accountable for his actions. Right is right, not a political affinity. He harmed someone, possibly more, with his irresponsibility. Perhaps the legislature is not where his talents belong right now, at least not until he learns from his mistake/aggression. No one is throwing him under the bus by suggesting he resign. We are stopping the bus so that he can so the right thing by the Black woman he hurt and by the community. 

About Chris Thompson

(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog he currently writes and regularly posts on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon. Chris is also a regular contributor for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is http://www.chroniclesofnonesense.com

Still thinking about how you can practice antiracism in your every day life? 

1) Join our growing membership base at patreon.com/540wmain
2) Contribute to our ongoing annual fund at rally.org/540wmain

  1. Visit our blog for over 700 social justice focused posts from our Founding Director, contributing writer Chris Thompson, and various guest writers.
  2. Check out our on-demand class library to learn about structural racism, environmental justice, and more.

Knowledge is power, educate yourself with 540WMain

540WMain Launches Membership Program for Antiracism Education in Team Environments

540WMain is pleased to announce the launch of an organizational membership program, providing essential social and racial justice training for team environments. This membership is open to organizations of any size and scope and provides virtual learning to the entire team enrolled, whether it be staff, board, student body, or members. 

This education includes access to over 50 community classes rooted in social justice and antiracism annually; topics include dismantling structural racism, responding to microaggressions, addressing implicit bias, and more. Enrolled organizations pay a monthly membership fee to allow their entire team unlimited access to these class offerings, which change in content on a monthly basis. 

This program was piloted in the Fall of 2020 with Nazareth College’s Partners for Learning and Partners for Serving programs to give students increased opportunities for hands-on learning and community resources without the barriers of cost and transportation. Nazareth student Nancy Garcia found the program to be impactful, stating “the 540WMain workshops have served not only as a resource with information on various topics such as nonprofit work and American anti-racist history, but also as a connect to the Rochester community.” 

“the 540WMain workshops have served not only as a resource with information on various topics such as nonprofit work and American anti-racist history, but also as a connect to the Rochester community.” 

Nancy Garcia, Nazareth Student

Creating more ways for local organizations to commit to antiracism work has been a long-time vision for 540WMain Executive Director, Calvin Eaton. Eaton believes this launch is needed at this pivotal time in our history, “so many organizations are looking for tangible ways to educate their teams on the side effects of structural and institutional racism. We want to provide ways they can take antiracist action in their everyday lives. This model will make 540’s programming accessible to community members in Rochester and beyond that might not otherwise have access to it.”

“so many organizations are looking for tangible ways to educate their teams on the side effects of structural and institutional racism. We want to provide ways they can take antiracist action in their everyday lives.”

Calvin Eaton, 540 Founding Director

Interested parties can explore membership levels at patreon.com/540wmain or by emailing us at info540westmain@gmail.com.