Trust me, I already know this is an unpopular opinion.
There’s certain staples of childhood in the black community: jokes about ritual Saturday cleaning, long church service, wanting ice cream but there’s ice cream in the house …. and whoopings. Or spankings. Or lickings. Or beatings. You are almost left to question if you are authentically black if you have survived childhood without getting one. My children will be black and I will not beat them.
I’ve tried to talk about this amongst friends and I am almost instantly the laughing stock of the crowd. The laughter is trailed with “You ain’t white” or “Your kids are gonna shoot up a school” with which I usually respond to with a smirk because I am always unsure if it is a conversation that we were ready to have as a community. Now I know that I have seen enough Facebook and Woldstarhiphop videos to know that the time is always the present.
This dates back to slavery (trust me, I already know some of you are annoyingly rolling your eyes) but sadly for most of Black Americans slavery is the foundation of our history in the Western Hemisphere. Nearly everything that we know of ourselves and value has been orchestrated by white slaveowners. This includes the immense value that we hold over disciplining our children through physical punishment. The mistakes of the slave were corrected through beating. Of course, this wasn’t done for the slave’s well-being or in good intent to teach them right from wrong. This was done to instill fear-induced respect of the master as a superior figure and to concrete the slaves’ perception of their subservient value in humanity. We have cradled this part of our history in some Stockholm syndrome-esque way as a pillar of what it means to be black. Carrying this with us catechizes that to be black in America is to still be a slave.
This form of punishment was never intended to be beneficial to the subject or to uplift them to higher understanding of the world (Is it a wonder that white people, descendants of slave owners, don’t beat their children?).
To the black parent beating is a way of teaching their son how to be a man and way of teaching their daughter to have respect and to obey. What this teaches our children is that love does hurt you. It teaches children that this is acceptable behavior from people that have said that they love you and this is a part of relationships, love and family. This teaches our sons that the way in which you become a man, prove it and gain respect is through violence. These are the ideals that we are instilling in the future men that will marry our daughters. And we are showing that as parents and adults that we are weaker than we conceived when we resort to violence when we are intimidated by a child’s disobedience or misbehavior and we feel as though the power and authority is being pulled out of our hands.