I was 15 years old when I got my last spanking (or whipping, if you prefer). I’d snuck off to see a boy in another neighborhood and gotten a few stolen kisses. My parents couldn’t find me for almost an hour and panicked. The welts on my ass and the embarrassment at being in high school and getting spanked by my daddy, in hindsight, weren’t really worth it.
So when I was perusing my Google Reader this morning, I came across this article at Racialicious, written by LaToya Peterson. In it, she talks about how the use of corporal punishment is viewed through a progressive/feminist lens, with the mindset that discipling children with violence, leads to children becoming violent or acting out in violent ways.
However, as LaToya points out, it’s not quite that simple when raising a black (or brown) child.
Despite some parents desire to be peaceful, their children are still operating in a violent world. So even if you raise a home that is nonviolent, how do you keep violence away from your door? How do you teach your children to respond to a violent world? The idea that violence begets more violence is a true one – but at the same time, blocks and neighborhoods can be taken over by very small groups of determined and violent people. Suddenly, all the neighbors live in fear of a handful of people.
So discipline wasn’t all physical. Large parts of it are modeling, intervention, appealing to reason. But sometimes, kids don’t want to hear it. And it’s one thing to ask an eight year old to heed what you say – yet another to ask a willful fifteen year old to do the same.
So what should parents do, when words fail and their children are on a collision course with the criminal justice system?
To some, spanking is a cut and dry issue. Some will never, ever believe its necessary. Some people will never, ever believe you can raise a decent person without spanking. ….. Sometimes, you need your child to fear you because they cannot understand the consequences of the life they are choosing. I watched this happen time and time again, particularly with the men I knew. There was discipline, there were beatings, but then there were also those beatings with the undercurrent of fear behind them. Fear that you are going to lose control of your child to this other, evil, more seductive world. Fear that despite your best efforts as a parent, your child is heading down a path that leads to prison, drug addiction, or life as a drug dealer or street thug.
If the choice ever came down to putting my hands on my child because I am fighting for their life? I’d probably do the same thing I’ve seen all my relatives do.
I’m ultimately not inclined to use any kind of violence other people these days. I know how seductive and easy that starts to feel, the exertion of control through physical means. And I know how easy it is to just allow yourself to react and react and react. So my solution is not to do it at all.
But I’m not going to take some Leave It to Beaver style moral high ground. I’m going to be raising black children, and I need to make sure they survive. If my child is on the path to start having run ins with the police, they’re going to have to go through me first.
Because unlike the criminal justice system, I care.
Please go and read the whole piece because there are some reference to a movie that tie her article together but I didn’t want to get bogged down in that.
It got me to thinking about how I was raised and how my husband was raised and how discipline was administered to us. We got whippings and were placed on punishment. I also think about how parents have to instill discipline and respect for authority in black and brown children in order to for them to survive in a world where they are often stereotyped as soon as they walk out the door.
As ya’ll know, Myron and I are trying to start a family of our own and though we don’t have children yet, I am not so naive to think that we won’t have the same issues to deal with due to the fact that our society has not yet caught up with our idealism of all folks being viewed equally. The more things change, the more they stay the same it seems. Yet, you still have to raise and protect your kids.
If you are currently a parent, do you spank your children? If you don’t why not? If you aren’t yet a parent, would you spank your kids??