Today social media was ablaze after a Facebook Live video of a mother beating her 16-year-old daughter went viral. Comment sections were flooded with people cosigning the mother’s behavior and advocating for more of today’s youth to get the same treatment. Let me just say this loud and clear, “Stop Abusing Our Kids.” I use the term “our” because I believe that we are indeed a village and as Black people, we have to protect each other because it’s blatantly obvious that no one else will. Also, none of us live in a vacuum. How someone was raised dictates the type of person they become and how they interact with the rest of society.
Now some people will take issue with labeling beatings and whoopings as abuse. But think about how quick we all are to call those same actions abuse when they are coming from outside the home. If a teacher, daycare worker, police officer, or anyone that isn’t a child’s parent does this to them we are ready to call in the troops and ride out, but not when it’s a parent. There is a level of cognitive dissonance surrounding this subject that is astounding.
I see many many MANY people, including friends, justify abuse of kids by saying things along the lines of “I was beat and I turned out fine.” Let me tell you right now, most of you haven’t, and that includes myself. We have dysfunctional relationships, inept communication skills, stunted emotional development, poor anger management skills, a general mistrust of others, drug & alcohol abuse problems, and terrible relationships with our parents based on fear and not the respect we tend to mistake it for. We are guarded and unable to express our feelings in ways that can be productive. These traits don’t come out of the blue, they are learned. These are clinical signs of victims of abuse but we refuse to recognize them as such.
I know many people reject the use of the term abuse because it means that their parents were abusers. This does not, however, mean that our parents were bad people. They, and by extension, we were taught that this was how you discipline your kids and eventually how to keep them out of trouble. But have you really thought where this idea came from? This idea was born out of slavery. Parents of enslaved children beat their kids in hopes that master wouldn’t beat them worse. They beat their kids in hopes that it would cause them enough pain to deter them from doing things seen as disobedient or insubordinate by white people. This same reasoning is used to today. Parents say they beat their kids so the system won’t have to. But just like in slavery, no amount of beatings can save a child from a white supremacist system. Just look at the prison population. Go ahead and take a poll of how many inmates report being beaten by their parents. See how well this reasoning works out?
Now there may be parents that say that someone who doesn’t have kids shouldn’t be speaking on this. But I say that’s bullshit. As a child who went through being beaten and is still grappling with the effects of it, I would say I’m just as qualified to speak on it as anyone else. No one says that if you don’t live in war-torn countries, you shouldn’t speak on why it’s harmful to that country’s citizens. No one says that if you don’t go to a Catholic church you shouldn’t speak out about the child sexual abuse going on within it. No one says if you don’t have pets you shouldn’t speak about animal abuse. Child abuse, by parents, is one of the few topics we do this on and it allows the practice to continue.
It is absolutely possible to raise well behaved, respectful, smart, well-adjusted children without involving abusive tactics. I see it every day. I know parents personally who are raising amazing children without hitting them. We have to get rid of the notion that discipline has to involve pain and/or humiliation. Every research study and child psychologist will tell you that this is actually counterproductive to the outcomes you seek. If there was any actual benefit to it, and you were actually “teaching” your kid good behavior, you wouldn’t have to keep doing it. We also have to stop seeing and treating normal childhood behavior as bad behavior. The number of times I see parents berate and physically hurt children for being inquisitive, testing boundaries, showing curiosity, or just not understanding and following what are social norms for adults is infuriating.
This is a cycle of abuse that needs to end. Just because we were raised to endure this does not mean that we have to repeat the cycle. The purpose of getting older and growing is to reflect on your experiences and figure out what is beneficial and what is not. Just because something is a “tradition” does not make it right. We’ve been able to see that the tradition of female genital mutilation is wrong and have taken steps to stop it. We have been able to see the abuse of women by men, that was upheld as the societal norm is wrong and taken actions to stop it. We have been able to see that tradition of marrying children off early isn’t healthy and have taken steps to stop that. Why not this?