Friday, March 23, 2012

Whipping & Spanking Are Not Cultural Discipline, They’re Abuse

I have a new op-ed up at Clutch magazine



From Sinbad to Eddie Murphy, Black comedians have made largely Black audiences laugh by telling jokes about being whipped as a child, and this is because doing the dance with the belt, or in some cases whatever is handy, has very much been normalized in Black culture.  It is easier to turn these memories into comedic moments, than to deal with the emotional and physical pain that they caused, or the fact that physical violence between parent and child is a betrayal of trust.  I’d argue, the constant denial of harm is a form of social malaise.
Black parents are tasked with the job of ensuring that their children don’t become a statistic. White supremacy is not interested in educating or promoting advancement for our children, and is more than happy to place a Black child on a path which leads to incarceration, dropping out of high school and low paying jobs.  Being a Black parent is daunting — and for some — it leads to feelings of helplessness and desperation. Children raised with violence in their homes, are more likely to be violent themselves and become violent adults, thus becoming the manifestation of their parent’s worst fears.
According to Fox news, 40-year-old Yolanda Womack was arrested and charged with neglect of a dependent, when her son was forced to flee their home after being beaten with an extension cord for wearing sagging pants, in violation of his schools dress code policy. The fashion of wearing sagging pants originates in the prison population.  Clearly, this is not a positive fashion choice, or a good association for a child to make, but does it merit being whipped across the chest, back and face until he is forced to run to his neighbors to escape the abuse?
Reading the comments on the original article, as well as at Bossip, it is clear that there is a lot of support for Womack’s actions.  The chief defense employed by commentators is the fact that corporal punishment of children is very much a cultural phenomenon among African-Americans. Some see it as their Biblical responsibility as parents to use corporal punishment as a form of discipline. Parents who employ methods like time outs, verbal explanations, or groundings are often perceived as weak disciplinarians. Those who did find fault with Womack’s alleged actions largely limited their concern to the fact that the child’s face was involved in the physical altercation.
When 16-year-old Michael Taylor was whipped by his uncle Lamoine Ward, and forced to put the video on Facebook, as a refutation of his claims of gang affiliation, the positive responses were quite similar to those currently being given to Yolanda Womack.  Many thought that this action would set Taylor on the straight and narrow, and it was professed that kids need to be beaten to keep them in line.