The prevalent use of corporal punishment among African-Americans is no secret. Some scholars have argued that beating children in the black community serves as some sort of traumatic reenactment of the brutal violence experienced during slavery.

The absolute devastation of the black family during slavery shaped the very definition of freedom around the ability to raise one’s own children.
It should be no surprise, then, that black American slaves, who endured the trauma of their own beatings, inherited their oppressors’ violence and, for centuries, passed down these parenting beliefs.

This is one of the saddest untold stories in American history — the way in which the victims of racist oppression and violence have hurt the bodies of their children in an effort to protect them from a hostile society.

I see it as a way to take control. Because they had so little that they could control. To take on the theory of “I will beat them so “they” won’t have to”. Or, to thicken their skin for the world they would grow up in. Because of the well-orchestrated matrix of Jim Crow’s oppression which trapped black children at every developmental milestone.

Black parents also have legitimate fears about the safety of their children. And some believe physical discipline is necessary to keep black children out of the streets, out of prison, or out of police officers’ sight.

“This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.” “Go get a switch.” “Stop that crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Are just a few phrases we have heard when black parents beat, going to, or have beaten their children. Maybe it is true that it hurts them more than the child as it is reopening wounds by being a witness of their own self-reflection receiving repeated trauma.

It is a European idea that children are “born in sin” and should have the devil beaten out of them with a “rod of correction.” That brutality cascaded across other cultures through slavery, colonialism, and religious indoctrination.

Before white America enslaved millions of Africans, whuppings were not a parenting tool embraced by my ancestors. In fact, there is no evidence that ritualistic physical punishment of children existed in pre-colonial West African cultures, where children were viewed as sacred and purer than adults, and sometimes even as reincarnated ancestors or gods.

The truth is that white supremacy has done a masterful job of getting black people to continue its trauma work, and call it “love.” It erodes our children’s humanity and co-signs the slave master’s logic that you have to hit a black body to make it comply.

We need to stop teaching children that obedience is their greatest virtue. Especially as we brace for the possibility of more systemic racial devastation. We need young people who push boundaries and become the kind of adults who will not let themselves be victimized.

By Dreamz

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