When I was 4 years old, I told my mother that my nursery school teacher told me to “stop acting like a baby” because I had gotten a boo-boo on my knee. According to my mother, she asked me what reception other little kids received when they got boo-boos. I told her that a little white girl in my class got a coveted spot on our teacher’s lap not too long after I got hurt.
My mother proceeded to accompany me to class and scolded the teacher for treating me differently. As though a 4-year-old little black girl, seen as damn near an adult in the eyes of law enforcement and educators, didn’t deserve to be soothed and told that her boo-boo was just as important as a white classmate’s.
I mention this story because not only did white educators not care about me, but they still don’t care about little black girls who look like me. In case you were unaware, little precious, innocent black girls are killing themselves. And if the recent suicides continue, little black girls will keep dying in droves.
In the past month, two little black girls have committed suicide.
Full stop. This is inexcusable.
These girls are killing themselves because they were being bullied by their classmates. And as we saw recently, God forbid that a little white boy whose parents are known as white supremacists shed one tear, possibly over being reprimanded for repeating racist rhetoric he may have heard at home to his classmates.
The culture of disrespect toward black women starts as soon as little girls take their first steps. This “adultification” of young black girls was recently on full display after an 11-year-old girl was dragged from her home and placed in handcuffs after being suspected of a crime reportedly committed by a 40-year-old white woman.
This type of blatant disregard for these girls’ lives leads to poor self-esteem that could escalate into depression. This year alone, the state of Georgia has seen up to 38 suicides by children and teens, not including one young black girl who attempted suicide on Facebook but lived after viewers contacted local authorities.
The recent rash of little girls attempting to end their own lives, and too often succeeding, is further proof that there is something pervasively wrong with our culture, that we can’t protect the most vulnerable. When people begin to contemplate suicide, it’s often because they feel so hopeless about living that not existing is seen as the only option.
In adults, being functionally depressed with no warning before a suicide is a shock but not unheard of. In children, depression can often be seen as a change in mood. Some children may actually write stories or draw pictures depicting suicide. Some can become sad, but some can also turn irritable or withdrawn. Some may show a change in sleeping habits or eating habits.
Being in a home with a firearm especially has been shown to be a risk factor; a number of children who took their lives in Georgia did so using a gun they had access to. Being emotionally disruptive in school or having schoolwork suffer can also happen—especially if a child’s torment occurs at school and an educator who sees a little girl as older, more mature and less needing of emotional support turns a blind eye.
If your child, or a child you know, displays any changes in behavior, it would be best to seek the help of a therapist, because it’s apparent that many schools aren’t equipped to handle the emotional scars that are plaguing our girls.
This epidemic of little black girls killing themselves needs to stop. Black girls are this country’s greatest resource. And beginning to care for those who will one day grow up to be women who continue to push this culture forward (see Alabama) is the way to start.
Editor’s note: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 provides people in distress, or those around them, with 24-hour support. The Crisis Text Line allows people to text 741-741 to connect with crisis counselors.