INSIGHT: Handcuffs Over Homework—The Criminalization of Black Girls
Just as the killing of George Floyd and others provided the catalyst to open Americans’ eyes to systemic police violence against the Black community, the arrest and detention of a 15-year-old Michigan girl named Grace for failing to do her homework should be the wake-up call to end the criminalization of Black girls, say Rebecca Epstein, executive director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, and Yasmin Vafa, executive director of Rights4Girls.
News about Grace, a 15-year-old Black girl from Michigan, has gone viral: She was released July 31 after public outcry against a judge’s decision to place her in detention in May, on the grounds that she violated probation by not turning in homework. The judge imposed this punishment even though neither the defense nor the prosecution—nor Grace’s mother—had sought it.
But beyond the outrage behind Grace’s spending two months in juvenile detention for failing to do homework, the real news should be just how common this experience is for Black girls. At this time of national reckoning, if we’re serious about reaching new standards of racial equity, we need to recognize the pervasive patterns and practices that harm Black girls and other girls of color.