Stereotypes Negatively Influence Educational Outcomes for African American Girls

Race and gender stereotypes hinder educational success for many African American girls.

Race and gender stereotypes hinder educational success for many African American girls.

According to a joint report by the Legal Defense Fund and the National Women’s Law Center, gender and racial stereotypes are among significant barriers to educational success for  African American girls.

In their publication Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls (2014), it is noted that although African American girls and women have played major roles in the fight for civil rights and educational equality, negative stereotypes and negative perceptions of African American females persist, adversely impacting the educational experience for African American girls.  Views of educators are too often influenced by stereotypical conceptions of African American women as being angry or aggressive and promiscuous or hyper sexualized. This negative bias harms the educational environment. One result is the tendency for school teachers and administrators to assume that African American girls need more social correction than do white girls, which eventuates in a disproportionate number of African American girls receiving disciplinary referrals. Correlatively, African American girls who do not meet the traditional model of femininity (e.g. modesty and passivity) are more likely to be disciplined than white girls and be administered more severe punishment for comparable behaviors.

Included in the report are many recommendations to eliminate educational disparities for African American girls. Among them are: increase access to opportunities that promote diversity and reduce racial isolation (e.g. magnet schools); ensure that public funds are used to help schools reduce racial and gender disparities in education; provide racial bias training to educators and school personnel to eliminate discriminatory practices; and encourage schools to develop alternatives to overly punitive discipline practices.


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