A few Facebook debates ago, a friend and I traded thoughts on the benefits – or lack thereof – of spanking children.
She is a mother of two small boys but was against spanking. I, on the other hand, thought that because I was spanked as a child and hadn’t turned into Jeffrey Dahmer, what harm does it really do? In fact, my rationale was that there are even some pitiful grown folks roaming around, who could have used a couple of smacks to the back of the head as children. Naturally, that was a lengthy debate, which ended when we had to agree to disagree.
But that was a year or so ago, and in the words of President Obama, I have evolved.
What inspired this little philosophical evolution comes courtesy of our favorite site for debauchery and mayhem, aka WorldStarHipHop, which posted a 19-second video of a 13-year-old girl being beat savagely by a man, who I will assume is a family member according to the video info, and possibly her father.
According to the narration going on during the video, which comes by way of a woman’s voice who we will assume is another family member, the 13-year-old girl – or “ho” as she is referred to several times in the video – has been missing from home for three days. She is also wearing a form- fitting black dress, which is way too mature for someone her age. We don’t really get to see the child’s face (thankfully) as (unfortunately) the man in the video has her by a fistful of her hair. He swings her about and lashes her repeatedly with his belt while the woman behind or near the camera yells:
“You are 13, ho. You want to be a woman? Put it on Facebook and let [inaudible]…you know you ain’t grown, b***h…”
Although the video is short, it is hard to watch. I don’t understand how a single person can look at that video and think any of it – the beating, the hair pulling and the cursing too – is justified.
It’s also painful to watch because it means we have to acknowledge that the way many of us were disciplined as children just wasn’t right. Sure, our parents and other involved family members were well-meaning in their aims. And as the recipients of said a**-whoopings, we could probably point to a number of instances, which likely needed correcting – including staying away from home for three days. But just like the master’s whip, we use corporal punishment too because we want our kids to “act right” or conform to standards that are oppressive and assumptive. I mean, what does it mean to “dress like a ho” anyway? Had that dress been on a grown woman, would you call her a ho? And last time I checked, the real “hos” come in style motifs from conservative librarian all the way to Basketball Wives-chic.
Not to mention that this type of violence – both verbal and physical – that we inflict upon kids tends to manifest itself elsewhere in life. As this study suggests, kids who are spanked are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior and break rules. And as this study states, people who were verbally abused as children had 1.6 times as many symptoms of depression and anxiety as those who had not been verbally abused and were more likely to be self-critical adults. Therefore, it would seem that spanking and calling children names does more to lead children astray in spite of its aim.
And really, what exactly is the lesson to learn in such heavy-handed discipline?
Could it be for a child that ‘my parents are hypocrites because they claim they love me but out of the other side of their mouth, speak nasty to me’? That ‘the people who are supposed to protect me from danger, embarrass and abuse me worse than the people out in the street’? Yeah, we are mad at the child for having the gall to run away or be away from home and seek refuge elsewhere when likely the lessons on how she should conduct herself as well as be treated by other people in this world happened before she even left the house. After all, if daddy thinks it is cool to call her a ho and a b***h and beat her like a pimp would a renegade prostitute, than why can’t another guy, another girl, and everyone else who all claim such, love me too?
If we truly care about creating a better world for our children (and other people’s children), we have to find more creative alternatives to the old-school ways of disciplining: like talking. And I don’t mean hurling derogatory labels at children like ‘niggas’ and ‘b***hes,’ and ‘hos.’ I mean a real heart-to-heart with your kids, one that seeks to facilitate understanding in addition to being inspiring. The best way to get people to commit to positivity in life is to instill in them the hope and confidence in themselves to want to make sound and right decisions on their own. That can’t come through lashes.
But what does seem to come from all that spanking and name calling are more demoralized people, who are fearful and receptive to all sorts of negative attention. Just like many of us were, who too were spanked often – that’s if we are being honest with ourselves. And that’s the thing: We need to stop burdening our children and the next generation with those emotional pains, just because someone did it to us. We can sit in denial all we want about the uselessness of corporal punishment, but what’s clear is that the child is not the only one in this video in need of guidance. In fact, judging by the comment section under the video (as well as around the Internet), a few of us also might be in need of therapy.