Date of Degree

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor(s)

Sophia Perdikaris

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Inequality and Stratification

Keywords

African-American Childhood, Race, Sustainability of Inequality

Abstract

African American children are simultaneously entrapped by the construct of race and while excluded from the construct of childhood. Race has bifurcated the timeline(s) and bastion of childhood in which one has clear milestones and expectations and the other is nonlinear, fickle, and subject to a suspicious gaze. Recent research describes this phenomenon as “dehumanization”, “age overestimation”, and “adultification.” However, the aforementioned classifications of African American children’s’ experience presents the assumption in which this particular group would first have to be viewed both as human and also as a child, which is arguable. Policy, both children centric and otherwise, along with the problematized perception of African American children interact in a way that has nearly automated the converging space of race and childhood as one of sustainable inequality. Within the trajectory of political economic transitions in the United States African American children, in terms of age categorization and grouping, have gone from being property to problematized; an ephemeral childhood without the assistance of the pre-established demarcations and safeguards. The violence perpetrated against African American children and youth, structurally and physically, demands further examination. While not unprecedented, contemporary technology and social media make the brutal incidents almost instantly accessible and widespread. Social media casts a larger net for the public to bear witness to the frequency and magnitude and in turn illuminates the sentiment of the viewers and how they perceive African American children. The recorded violence, more often than not, is deemed justified and goes unpunished which lays the foundation for larger questions regarding the confinement, exclusion, and assumptions of African American childhood. Who is considered a child when biological age is disregarded based on race? How does the perpetuation of “racialized innocence” and “privilege of protection” racialize potential, limit agency, and construct a future as a luxury? Is it possible to be both African American and a child or are these spaces mutually exclusive?

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