The White Privilege of ‘Adulting’
Some of us didn’t have the luxury of choosing to learn life skills
I don’t think there’s a recent term that irritates me more than “adulting.”
Seeing posts or hearing people say, “I just made rent. Adulting!” and expecting people to give them a medal for being responsible or doing something basic makes me seethe. Because I notice many of the people using the term “adulting” don’t share the same hue or gender that I do.
To the privileged, adulting is the practice of behaving in a way that is characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks. It presumes that the person engaging in this behavior was sheltered, coddled, or otherwise lacked the basic life skills necessary to be a successful adult. But if you’re not White or male, basic tasks and survival skills are likely not anything new to you. If you’re a Black woman, you’ve probably been adulting since kindergarten.
Adulting isn’t some Herculean feat. It’s a sign that your parents — and, to a smaller extent, society — failed you.
Black girls, in particular, are highly likely to be adultified, or viewed as adults while still children. Numerous studies have shown that Black girls are regarded as less innocent and needing less nurturing than their White peers. This stems from slavery, where stereotypes took shape about Black women as the “sapphire” or “angry Black woman,” or as the “jezebel” or the hypersexualized Black woman. The end result is that this generational trauma gets applied to young Black girls.
In addition, many Black households contribute to the adultification of Black girls. Black mothers are apt to give their daughters more responsibilities and subject them to more rules and discipline than their sons, which stems primarily from systemic racism. Black mothers tend to feel that because society regards Black boys as a threat, they are more in need of protection and nurturing.
Some pressure on Black girls and women can also be attributed to sexism, since nurturing, caring for younger children, and household chores are still regarded as “women’s work,” which Black boys don’t need to…