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Adultification Bias

Adultification bias refers to the treatment of children as older than they are. This issue disproportionately affects black girls, especially compared to white girls. A Georgetown study shows that adults on average view black girls as more “adult” than white girls.

Adultificaiton bias leads to higher rates of punishment in schools among black girls. There is an attitude that they should “know better” because apparently they are older. This also leads to disproportionately greater convictions in the criminal justice system among black girls than white girls.

Adultification bias applies to the case of Ajahnae Smaugh. Ajahnae, a 14-year-old black girl, was trafficked by Al Chernoff, a 59-year-old white man. Chernoff promised Ajahnae an iphone and money in exchange for sex, drove Ajahnae to his house, and demanded that Ajahnae give him oral sex. As a result of the exploitation, Ajahnae killed Chernoff. After this horrible incident, the public failed to recognize the reasons why Ajahnae resorted to killing Chernoff. They did not think about the fact that there was a 14-year-old black girl in a 59-year-old white man’s home. They did not understand that Ajahnae was A CHILD who was promised an iphone and money. They did consider that a child’s brain is not fully developed and often unable to recognize dangerous situations.

Instead of treating Chernoff as the adult and Ajahnae the child, Chernoff's supporters did the opposite.

Comments on the Facebook page "Justice for Al" demonstrate the unfair adultification of Ajanhae. They depict her as a cold-blooded killer who had no reason to be in Chernoff’s home. On the other hand, they depict Chernoff as a hero cat rescuer. Below is just a sample:

An adult manipulated a child into entering his home and sexually abusing her. However, Ajahnae is treated as an adult who should have “known better” than to kill a cat hero. This is an unacceptable example of adultification bias, and it is our job to educate our communities about the consequences of such an idea.

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