Beating Our Children?

The Transformational Agenda Magazine 26th Edition

BEATING OUR children?

Let’s examine another unconscious negative mental legacy of slavery, which I know a lot of my people will disagree with. I believe we definitely should stop beating our children. I hear those voices again, saying things like, “I don’t beat, I spank,” or “The Bible says, ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’,” or “It kept me in line and out of trouble.” You did survive, and no one wants to criticize those who birthed us; but come on, you’ll look long and hard to find a child development expert who agrees with spanking. In many countries, you’ll find no one roughing up any child. No one. 

During slavery and Jim Crow, in order to keep our children away from the cruelty of the master, we beat our children into submission to adhere to the rules and regulations of the slave system lest they “misbehave” in sight of someone who could beat them to death or organize a lynch mob to delight in their torture. It was imperative that a mother be able to stop her children in their tracks by simply giving them the “evil eye.” After all, it was a matter of life or death! Today, the descendants of those who knew the lash often still believe a good parent is one who beats their children, in order to achieve immediate submission on demand.

We still see African American mothers in pediatrician’s offices, in grocery stores, or on public transit, grabbing their child tight with one hand while whaling away at them with the other, promising they’ll get far worse when they get home if they don’t stop crying. Sometimes they say something like, “You ain’t never gonna be nothin’, just like your daddy” but that’s a different story. Now, why would a rational person do something like that in public? Because cooked into our culture subconsciously is the belief beyond question, that the absolute proof of a responsible African American parent (I could have said slave parent)—is having absolute physical control of your child(ren). That mother is performing in public, trying to convince the other adults present that, “I’m a responsible parent; my child’s just acting up today.”

It’s as if she’s having a cultural intergenerational flashback. She’s desperately trying to convince “master” that she can and will discipline her child as soon as they get home, so there’s no reason for master to take him from her to teach him the lesson of subservience, nor to sell him; rather she will, totally without compassion, take care of this, and it will never happen again. So, it gets really confusing for African Americans when the Division of Family Services wants to take your child, simply because you left evidence that you beat them.

It’s time we stop teaching our children that physical violence is all right, even when it’s administered by the people whom they depend on and whom they want to love them unconditionally—their parents and/or caregivers. That goes for physical threats and verbal abuse as well.

Instead of using physical punishment, will you consider loving your child enough to not submit them to the lash? Whenever you instinctively want to beat one, instead do this: breathe, smile, hug your child—tight, and whisper into their ear over and over again “I love you so please don’t do that again”—until they plead not to be loved like that anymore. It will work just as well as a beating; it will probably work better. Really, try it. I raised three children and only slapped one twice, and while she doesn’t remember it, I do with shame. Hug them with love into submission, not beat them with belts, switches, ironing cords, boards, pots and pans, extension cords, shoes, and whatever else you could get your hands on. Also, please, no more laughing nor bragging about how soundly you physically corrected your child.

Beating our children remains a terrible negative mental legacy of slavery and times gone by. And, I’m so glad that razor straps don’t exist anymore! My dad used to pop his to instill fear before administering the pain, sometimes with rage, until the welts bled. But we don’t have to act like that anymore.

The Transformational Agenda Magazine 26th Edition

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