They Marked Them "Superpredators," Then Incarcerated Children For Life

picture of young black boy's face
Briona Lamback
November 22, 2021

The term “superpredator'' first appeared on November 27, 1995 in a Weekly Standard article, predicting a rise of “radically impulsive, brutally remorseless” Black youth. They claimed 270,000 more “young predators” were on the streets compared to 1990. 

Of course, it’s all a myth. But it’s still affecting us today.

Their theory painted Black children as dangerous criminals – animals, even – but juvenile crime had actually FALLEN by two-thirds by the time that the article was published. So what were these claims based on?

Racist lies! The media took the “superpredator” lie and ran with it, causing widespread panic. They suggested that the nation would soon see  “elementary school youngsters who pack guns instead of lunches.” 

And despite the fact that most mass shootings were committed by white male youth, this panic led to dangerous shifts in legislation.

States began allowing automatic adult prosecution, imprisonment with adults, and life-without-parole and death sentences for CHILDREN! It wasn’t until 2001 that the U.S. Surgeon General officially labeled the “superpredator” theory a lie.

However, it took a decade to reverse those policies. And still, the “superpredator” theory shows up in the ongoing police murders of Black youth! 

This white supremacist myth is why we must continue telling our own stories and fighting to abolish a “justice” system that continues to label Black children as unruly perpetrators of crime.

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