R&B diva Gladys Knight used some pretty poor judgment yesterday on CBS’ “The Talk” when she weighed in on the alleged altercation between Janet Jackson and Paris Jackson. She had this to say:
See, I’m from the south and [we] was raised in that Southern way. You have to understand Paris is what, 14? How old is Janet? Who’s the one who tries to direct the other one here? And I would think that it’s a good thing she let Paris know who she is. She is a Jackson, she shouldn’t be putting the business out there like that. ’Cause people read into whatever they want to read into, that’s how they get the drama. So, she’s just trying to protect her, in a way. But if she [Paris] called me that, she wouldn’t have any teeth…. You respect your elders.
Sometimes, the quickest way to earn a side-eye is to try to slip a problematic comment into a conversation with the caveat that you’re joking, you’re “from the South,” or you’re black “and that’s just how we do.” This is one of those times.
Much has been said in recent months about acceptable forms of discipline for children. In the aftermath of Creflo Dollar’s high-profile assault charge, and in light of parents’ (and kids’) heightened propensity to use social media to protest or affirm disciplinary action, it’s clear discussions about the fine line between discipline and abuse are still quite relevant and necessary.
Second, there’s the whole “she wouldn’t have any teeth” thing. When elders or “Southerners” (since Knight attributes this to regional attitudes and so does “The Talk” co-host Sheryl Underwood) use abusive language like “knock you into next week,” “slap the black off you,” and “kick your teeth in,” we’re all supposed to chuckle and quip about how Big Mama don’t play, because we know she doesn’t mean it literally and these are just scarier euphemisms for spanking. Regardless of where you stand on corporal punishment, it’s never a good idea to threaten a child with bodily harm as a way of keeping them in line.
Children don’t always understand hyperbole; they take the graphic violent threats seriously. They take it seriously because you’ve voiced it. Because you’ve voiced it, they think you’re capable of it. And if you, the incontestable adult, is capable of it, it must be behavior that’s acceptable to emulate.