When a little White girl goes missing, online news, supermarket tabloids and cable network stations bombard us with up-to-the-minute dispatches on the crime, the victim, her shattered family and anguished community.

When a little Black girl is murdered in cold blood by a big-city police department, it is up to the community and those who care about social justice, to ensure that the case doesn’t fade into the national obscurity that is usually reserved for the lives of people of color. The recent execution of 7-year-old Aiyanna Jones by the Detroit Police Department during a raid, while she was sleeping in her home, is the kind of atrocity that makes many people of color view the police as an occupying army.

According to news reports, the Detroit Police were conducting a raid that was being filmed for an A&E reality show. Neighbors informed the police that there were children in the home, but their pleas were ignored. Searching for a suspect (who allegedly was the fiancé of Jones’ aunt, and reports vary about whether or not he was home at the time or arrested later), officers allegedly fired into the home from outside, then lobbed a (stun) grenade into the house. Little Aiyanna was shot through the neck during the raid.

By exercising a so-called “no knock” policy in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, the Detroit Police’s criminal disregard for human life and the civil liberties of people of color have kept the community under siege. According to Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, the Detroit Police have been under a federal consent decree, but continue to use military-style raids that terrorize Black citizens.

Tragically, Aiyanna’s murder also comes on the heels of a recent CNN study about the impact of skin color bias on young children. CNN presented the findings of Margaret Beale Spencer, a psychologist who utilized the same “doll test” technique as that of psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark in 1947. The Clarks’ research documented the destructive impact of racism on Black children’s self-image and was used in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education lawsuit.

Spencer asked Black and White children to identify the child they believed had negative traits in a drawing featuring children of different skin colors. The majority of both Black and White youngsters found the darker skinned child to be the “dumb,” “bad” and “unattractive” one, and identified the lightest child as possessing the most desirable traits.

The association of Whiteness with normalcy, power, attractiveness, worth and desirability is reinforced by mainstream media, the dominant culture, families, White children receive the constant message that Whiteness is superior.

White parents who claim that they are raising their children to be “colorblind,” and reflexively dismiss focus on racial or cultural differences as “promoting racism,” simply reinforce the dominant culture’s racist inscription of Whiteness as the unspoken norm.

Adults who ignore the very real and damaging overvaluation given to White or lighter skin in marketing and advertisements, as well as in film, video and television shows with predominantly White casts (such as on the Disney Channel and the major networks), ensure that children will be ignorant of the power of White privilege.

Counter-programming children of color to believe that they are beautiful, capable, powerful and intelligent requires specific emphasis on the cultural capital of people of color. It requires school curricula that actively incorporate the contributions of people of color to every aspect of American social history, literature, science and mathematics. It requires that conscious White parents have conversations with their children about how race does confer social advantage onto Whites. And it requires that we continue to tear down the regime of White supremacy that fetishes little White girls as the national ideal of innocence while disposing of little Black girls as ghetto expendable.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of blackfemlens.org.

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