A White man was ‘scared to death’ of Ralph Yarl. For Black boys, this isn’t new.

April 17 2023

Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, Co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity, discussed the shooting of 17-year-old Kansas City teen Ralph Yarl after a case of mistaken address with the Washington Post. The article examines the shooter's excuse and the overarching concept that Black children are routinely perceived as older and more threatening than their White counterparts. 

The following is an excerpt from the Washington Post coverage:

It’s generally accepted that there’s a distinction between children and adults and what can be expected of them, said Phillip Atiba Goff, chair of African American studies at Yale University. But Black children often aren’t afforded that same grace as White children, he said.

In one study, researchers asked people to judge the perceived innocence of children and young people up to age 25. The Black children ranked as significantly less innocent than other children in every age group beginning at age 10, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

Black children are essentially “adultified” — treated older than their age, said Goff, co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity, a research center that studies race and policing. “They’re held more responsible for their behavior than their same-age peers,” he said. “And it’s assumed that they should be punished more severely as a result of all of that.”

Goff added that while he can’t say for sure that the shooting of Yarl was a case of “adultification,” the teenager “looks like he’s 16” in photos.

These types of incidents keep Black families on guard, whether a child is going to the store to buy candy like Martin when he was killed or picking up their siblings like Yarl, Goff said. “For parents of a Black child, as I am myself, to have to explain, ‘Hey, it’s not fair, but the world thinks this way of you’ … it’s a crushing thing to have to explain to a child,” he said.

Read the full article at WashingtonPost.com