BLACK VOICES

How Misperceptions Of 'Aggressive' Black Female Behavior Lead To Tough Punishments For Young Girls

06/01/2015 02:32 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2015

It's no secret that African American women are disproportionately represented in arrest statistics across the United States, and it appears this pattern of punishment begins for young black girls at a very early age.

Last year a New York Times piece explored racial disparities in suspensions for school-aged children -- a pattern with which freelance writer Ashley Ford is intimately familiar, she told HuffPost Live.

"I remember getting kicked out of class one time for sneezing too loud and being sent to detention," Ford said. "I spent all day in in-school detention."

Part of the problem was that, despite the racial makeup of the school, nearly all of the authority figures at Ford's school were white -- and they often misread emotions coming from the students.

"We are read as aggressive. … Most of the black women I know, in a room full of white women, our voices are deeper," she said. "The way we speak emphatically, which is cultural, is sometimes read as aggressive or intimidating. … As black women, [we] are not raised to cower, you're definitely raised to respect, but you're not raised to cower."

Fusion reporter Collier Meyerson agreed, saying that the public, more generally, misinterprets black behavior, which can have grave consequences once black students exit the gates of their schools and become adults. Meyerson explained:

"People don't know how to read black girl expressions, black women expressions. They don't know how to read their faces. They don't know how to read their happy faces, their exclamations, and that often times they are translated into aggressive [behavior]. ... It's one thing when you get kicked out of class, but it's another thing when you're encountered by law enforcement and you're staring at a gun."

Watch the HuffPost Live clip above to hear more about the societal perception of black women.

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