Black youth are ­ under siege in the United States, especially those living
in and near poverty. When most ­people hear that my research focuses on
the experiences of Black youth, they assume I am talking about boys and
young men. The same ­people, regardless of their po­liti­cal affiliations,
can rattle off the realms in which Black boys appear to be underperform-
ing or failing to live up to the ideals of citizenship. These usually include
references to police brutality and racial profiling, incarceration, the crisis
in public education, absentee fathers, and, tangentially, sagging pants.
Girls and young ­women,1 if they are mentioned at all, are cited as ­either
victims of the actions taken by Black men and boys or one of the primary
reasons why Black men and boys have it so hard. Our failure to under-
stand and, therefore, address the interlocking systems and entrenched
policies that affect the entire diverse community of Black ­people in the
United States has disastrous life-­ or de ath consequences for the commu-
nity’s most vulnerable members: children and adolescents. Research in
the social sciences on Black men and boys, media attention, and even the
initiatives taken by our president have provided the general public with
at least a language to talk about young Black men. Black girls, however,
remain illegible. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t confuse visibility or sound-­
bite language with social value or even protection. But being held in a
discursive frame, however misinformed, minimally establishes a place
from which histories can be revised and stories told from the perspective
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