April 24, 2021

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On Tuesday, Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl, was killed by a Columbus police officer. In our society, gender and race powerfully affect experience and opportunity. Sitting at the intersection of both gender and racial discrimination, Black women and girls face unconscionable barriers to safety and success.

Research shows us that people tend to view Black girls collectively as more adult than white girls — a phenomenon called adultification. Adultification is connected to harsher treatment by law enforcement and disproportional outcomes in school discipline.

At The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, we work to remove the unjust norms, biases and discriminations that bar all women and girls from reaching their full potential. Thus, when a 16-year-old Black girl is killed by law enforcement, we much as ourselves this difficult question: Did adultification of a Black girl cause a police officer to intervene more forcefully and rob Ma’Khia Bryant of her life? If we do not vulnerably ask that question, we fail Black girls and we fail ourselves.

We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends grieving Ma’Khia Bryant and to our entire community that continues to be traumatized by a broken system. The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio is committed to social change for women and girls, and we recognize that gender equity and racial equity are inseparable. To achieve one, we must achieve both. That is why we will continue to boldly invest in Black women and girls as they lead the way. We urge our community to join us in creating the equitable future that they deserve.