The “good girl” and “bad girl” dichotomy, as chronicled by Monique W. Morris in Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, is a condition that has plagued black girls and women for time immemorial. Society’s deeply entrenched expectations of black girls—influenced by racism and patriarchy—has led to a ritual whereby these young women are often mischaracterized, and mislabeled because of how they look, dress, speak, and act. In short, black girls are devalued based on how others perceive them.
The stigmas many attach to black girls has far-reaching and damaging consequences, Morris writes, with devastating effects on their academic, social, and emotional lives. A veteran education, civil-rights, and social-justice scholar, Morris is the co-founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute, a group dedicated to combatting disparities affecting black women, girls, and their families. She recently shared some thoughts with The Atlantic on interventions to help black girls in schools.