Black youths are more likely than White youths to be tried and sentenced as adults, suggesting they are often seen as older and less innocent than White children of the same age, according to a recent university study.
The Black children make up 58 percent of all children sentenced to adult facilities and are 18 times more likely than White children to be sentenced as adults, the research team reports.
The study titled “The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children” was published in February 2014 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The researchers explore the idea that traditional prejudice may have different implications from that of “dehumanization,” which they define as the “denial of full humanness to others.”
“This conception of prejudice and dehumanization would predict that, whereas prejudice may prompt one to devalue a job candidate from a disliked group, prejudice would not predict endorsement of genocide or extreme violence toward that individual or group. Dehumanization, on the other hand, would,” the research team notes.
|“Black children make up 58 percent of all children sentenced to adult facilities”|
Dehumanization equates to a “reduction of social considerations afforded to humans for those who are dehumanized,” and in the case of the dehumanized child, the implication is especially troubling, the report says.
“This reduction violates one defining characteristic of children – being innocent and thus needing protection – rendering the category ‘children’ less essential and distinct from ‘adults.’ This may also cause individuals to see Black children as more like adults or, more precisely, to see them as older than they are,” the study explains.
The researchers utilized historical overview, detailing the observation that for decades, if not centuries, some individuals have associated Blacks as nonhuman animals, specifically apes.
“The logic of this assertion is that dehumanizing groups morally excludes them, making it permissible to treat people in a way that would be morally objectionable if they were fully human,” the researchers said.
The research team hypothesized that this sort of race-based perception, even when considering an adolescent, may very well explain why Black children, especially boys, receive harsher treatment in courts of law and society in general.