I have been thinking about writing this since I read about the beating of 18-year-old Yaman Sankari at The Uppity Brown Woman. It seems that Sankari's family discovered that she was having sex with her boyfriend and their response was to beat her. Her whole family has since been arrested and charged though they all deny that they have assaulted her.
This story triggered some very horrible memories for me. You see I am no stranger to the belt. For many years I was unable to even hold a belt in my hand because of the memories that it triggered in me. I somehow have blocked out the sounds of my own screams but can regularly hear that of my brothers in my mind. He was beaten more often, and more vigorously than I simply because he was male.
Of course the beatings were always initiated by some wrong that we had done but regardless of the so-called disobedience no person should be beaten with a belt, much less a child. The last time I was beaten I was 14 years old but I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the horror, the shock and the betrayal that I felt. I have not forgiven it, and will I never forgive it for all the days of my life.
I cringe when I hear comics making jokes about catching a whippin. It has become a regular shtick for some to turn this into a laughing matter. Sinbad, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock all have comedy routines in which they speak about being beaten as a child by their mothers and the audience laughs as though this does not create lasting damage. When you hit a child with a belt it is physical abuse. Many in the black community (though this happens in all communities) believe that this is an appropriate form of discipline. They scoff at time outs, and groundings because of course that isn't "real" punishment. Is the point of discipline to teach consequence for actions, or to permanently damage a child?
When I look at my own children, especially my oldest I know that if he were forced to endure what my brother or I lived with, it would break him. I love both of my children and would never inflict this kind of pain on them. It is no excuse to say that you didn't know any better, or that this is the way you were raised, repeating the wrongs that were committed against you is continuing the legacy and cycle of violence. At some point this needs to stop. If you were beaten as a child then you know the pain, don't pass it on to your own children. A child should never have to fear that the hand of the parent approaching them is going to deliver pain. Yes they need to respect you, but when you beat them, all you illicit is fear and not respect. Ask yourself as an adult why you deserve to exist without being beaten and a child does not? What makes your body so inviolable other than the fact that it has existed longer?
I will tell you as one that survived this kind of violence that it will stay with me all of the days of my life. When I think about it, my heart races and my hands begin to shake. My body fills with such a rage that I cannot put words to it. I know that my parents did what was done to them. I understand that for them, this is what discipline meant but I cannot let it go. I have intellectualized this to death but the end result is that the pain is and was real. It was never a laughing matter for me and never will be. It stands like a dam between us and will forever remain. When you think about discipline and being tough on your children, I beseech those of you who think the belt is the way to go to think again. You are violating your child and every other good thing that you may do will be overshadowed by this. Most of all know that it does not get forgotten despite the fact that many have turned this into a joke. Love and physical violence do not go together. Discipline does not need to rise to the level of abuse. Finally, love your children enough to respect their physical beings. No one deserves to be beaten with a belt.