*During his 2012 bail hearing George Zimmerman admitted misjudging the age of the black boy, Trayvon Martin, he killed assuming him to be a criminal wearing a hoodie. He thought Trayvon was in his late twenties while he actually was just 17.
Just like Zimmerman, to many white people, black boys seem older than their age. According to one study, people overestimated their ages by four and a half years. However, this does contribute in creating a false perception that black boys are less childlike than their white counterparts.
Similarly, according to another study, it was concluded that black girls need less care, support and guardianship and have more knowledge about sex and other adult topics compared to white girls.
Despite the fact that almost all children today display bad behavior at times, disobey their elders and talk back, it is all considered normal unless a black child acts that way. They are considered less innocent and more adult-like.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to create a social change today in which every child is equal irrespective of their color especially when popular actors and writers of this generation are creating images of innocent white children. It is only resulting in black children being defined as non children.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one such book, published in 1852, which created the angelic white Eva who was completely opposite to Topsy, the mischievous black girl. The book showed that Topsy was innocent at heart but misbehaved because she had been a target of violence and slavery. The success of the novel prompted it to being adopted as a stage show where Topsy’s character was often played by white women in black face making it look less innocent and more adult-like.
In advertisements run in the early 1900s too, white children received tender caresses while black children toiled. All such images on the television only weaponized childhood innocence as it was made a tool of racial dominance.
While black activists continue to work to remove the libel that their children were not vulnerable and not really children, it is high time to create a language that values justice more than innocence. Yes, every child is innocent but since the idea of innocence itself is part of a history of white supremacy, valuing justice more than innocence would mean protection of all children because they are children and, above all, human.