American society would never expect a child to file taxes or drive a car. Why then are children being subjected to the adult realities of media mistreatment, overly sexualized exploitation and physical harm?
A tweet posted by Billboard late last week featured a photo of North West with her mouth wide open, tongue hanging out, biting or licking what appears to be a Pez dispenser. The tweet read, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” While Kim Kardashian became a celebrity because of a sex tape that was made in 2007, to tie North to her mother’s sexual history would be wrong, yet understandable. But to insinuate that a 2-year-old child who likely isn’t potty-trained would be performing a sexual act is utterly sickening. The tweet has since been deleted, yet it is clear that white children are not subject to this overly sexualized treatment by the media. Children — celebrity or not — should never be the butt of any joke. Billboard’s tweet is largely indicative of the systematic over-sexualization and victimization of black and brown children. Furthering this notion, video footage of a 16-year-old black girl at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, shows the complete disregard for the innocence of minority children.
The widely circulated video of this teenage girl shows her sitting at her desk, arms down in a completely nonthreatening position. Officer Ben Fields — who has since been fired — then violently attempts to use a chokehold to rip the girl out of her desk, but takes the desk down with her. He then drags the girl, still in the desk, across the classroom floor. A parent would be arrested for treating their child in such a manner, so why are people questioning the girl and justifying the actions of the officer?
The entire situation is undeniably connected to what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for in calling attention to police brutality. Questions of what Eric Garner or Walter Scott did to warrant such reproachful treatment by the police are not completely invalidated, as these were adult men involved in altercations with the police that unnecessarily escalated to nauseating heights.
But it does not matter what this girl was doing — it doesn’t matter if she was on her cell phone, it doesn’t matter if she was chewing gum and it doesn’t matter if she was ignoring the teacher’s instructions. As a student in high school, how many times were you caught with your phone out? Plenty. How often did you get humiliated and physically brutalized as a result? Probably never.
Black and brown children are systematically denied a childhood. For this, the blame can be placed upon the ignorant individuals in society that so readily attribute grandiose racial stereotypes to completely undeserving children. Ahmed Mohamed, 14, was arrested for creating a clock. Tamir Rice, 12, was gunned down by police for having a toy that “looked like a gun” and Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, was shot dead — also by police — while sleeping in her home.
Science proves that the brain doesn’t fully develop until you’re 25 years old. While American society sets age limits on voting, drinking and renting a car, at what point in a child’s life are they “allowed” to be subject to racist or sexist stereotypes? Never. But of course these hateful ideas will one day have an effect on everyone’s life. A child who is unable to contribute to these stereotypes should never be forced to carry the brunt of them.
The societal treatment of black and brown people in America is in a deplorable state: You cannot turn on the television, open Facebook or look at a newspaper without seeing a story detailing the mistreatment of a minority. Yet the fact that spillage of this social intolerance is so drastically having a negative affect on children is reprehensible. Children are not adults and should not be treated as such. Forcing intolerant social concepts upon children would be akin to forcing them to navigate an H&R Block appointment or drive a stick shift — it makes no sense.