Fear of the Black Child

Kristin Henning

We live in a society that is uniquely afraid of Black children. Americans become anxious — if not outright terrified — at the sight of a Black child ringing the doorbell, riding in a car with white women, or walking too close in a convenience store. Americans think of Black children as predatory, sexually deviant, and immoral. For many, that fear is subconscious, arising out of the historical and contemporary narratives that have been manufactured by politicians, business leaders, and others who have a stake in maintaining the social, economic, and political status quo. There is something particularly efficient about treating Black children like criminals in adolescence. Black youth are dehumanized, exploited, and even killed to establish the boundaries of whiteness before they reach adulthood and assert their rights and independence.