They Marked Them ‘Superpredators,’ Then Incarcerated These Children For Life

little black child staring ahead
Briona Lamback
December 8, 2022

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. 

This story was a complete and utter lie, but it’s still affecting us today.

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

Anti-Black lies. The media took the “superpredator” trope and ran with it, causing widespread panic. The media 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 boys, this panic led to dangerous shifts in legislation.

​​States began allowing automatic adult prosecution, imprisonment with adults, 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.

And still, the “superpredator” theory shows up in the ongoing police killings of Black youth.

This anti-Black 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 violence.

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