Adrian Peterson (Credit: AP/Tom Lynn)
I had a tremendous amount of freedoms growing up - I could date, have sleep over’s, travel, choose any career path. That didn’t mean that I could do whatever I wanted – my mother placed remarkable pressure on me to succeed, both personally and professionally. As a young black woman, I was taught that I should never depend on anyone else for stability. The unspoken guidelines in my house were that I had to work hard, follow the rules, and show strength in public if I were to move forward. When I made mistakes along the way, I was disciplined, but not spanked.
I think my mother did a pretty good job of raising a strong-willed child like me without needing a whip for motivation. I am sure I have absolutely no tolerance for violence because of my upbringing. And yet, I understand why Charles Barkley would defend Adrian Peterson during a recent interview, by saying that “every black parents in the South hits their kids.”
We live in a society where the government uses force to ‘discipline’ black and brown bodies and then tells us that we are too aggressive as a community. I imagine black and brown parents who use violence with their children are doing so with the hopes that it will instill morals into their kids that will protect them from structural violence later on.
I am not a parent yet, but I can only imagine how difficult it will be to raise any child of mine in such a culture of white supremacy and patriarchy. There exists much pressure to make sure black kids have a sense of self and are, at the same time, ‘trained’ in a way that will allow them to easily glide into white societal structures as adults.
But, as Brittany Cooper writes:
…Beating, whupping or spanking your children will not protect them from state violence. It won’t keep them out of prison. Ruling homes and children with an iron fist will not restore the dignity and respect that the outside world fails to confer on adult black people.
In a conversation that I had with a close friend, he said, “Obviously abuse crosses a line, but whites want more respectful, well-mannered, educated minorities but only if they are raising them the way we (whites) do with our kids.”
I fully agree. Cultural norms and the way(s) that people chose to raise their children are shaped by our individual and collective histories. We must take into account how those norms are created and culture should be honored and respected. However, culture is a crime when it is used as an excuse to deny individuals their rights. Teaching our children through violence means does not change the structures of our system or empower our children to become better people and succeed in this world.