From Sinbad to Eddie Murphy, Black comedians have made largely Black audiences laugh by telling jokes about being whipped as a child, and this is because doing the dance with the belt, or in some cases whatever is handy, has very much been normalized in Black culture.  It is easier to turn these memories into comedic moments, than to deal with the emotional and physical pain that they caused, or the fact that physical violence between parent and child is a betrayal of trust.  I’d argue, the constant denial of harm is a form of social malaise.

Black parents are tasked with the job of ensuring that their children don’t become a statistic. White supremacy is not interested in educating or promoting advancement for our children, and is more than happy to place a Black child on a path which leads to incarceration, dropping out of high school and low paying jobs.  Being a Black parent is daunting — and for some — it leads to feelings of helplessness and desperation. Children raised with violence in their homes, are more likely to be violent themselves and become violent adults, thus becoming the manifestation of their parent’s worst fears.

According to Fox news, 40-year-old Yolanda Womack was arrested and charged with neglect of a dependent, when her son was forced to flee their home after being beaten with an extension cord for wearing sagging pants, in violation of his schools dress code policy. The fashion of wearing sagging pants originates in the prison population.  Clearly, this is not a positive fashion choice, or a good association for a child to make, but does it merit being whipped across the chest, back and face until he is forced to run to his neighbors to escape the abuse?

Reading the comments on the original article, as well as at Bossip, it is clear that there is a lot of support for Womack’s actions.  The chief defense employed by commentators is the fact that corporal punishment of children is very much a cultural phenomenon among African-Americans. Some see it as their Biblical responsibility as parents to use corporal punishment as a form of discipline. Parents who employ methods like time outs, verbal explanations, or groundings are often perceived as weak disciplinarians. Those who did find fault with Womack’s alleged actions largely limited their concern to the fact that the child’s face was involved in the physical altercation.

When 16-year-old Michael Taylor was whipped by his uncle Lamoine Ward, and forced to put the video on Facebook, as a refutation of his claims of gang affiliation, the positive responses were quite similar to those currently being given to Yolanda Womack.  Many thought that this action would set Taylor on the straight and narrow, and it was professed that kids need to be beaten to keep them in line.

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  • Fuchsia

    Discipline is about the parents ability to prepare their child for society. Only you can answer the question of which one is more likely for your child, death or jail. If it’s death then spanking is a must. If it’s jail then all other forms of discipline may work. Is it a cultural issue? Maybe.

    Here are a few thoughts on spanking, abuse and discipline. If you give fair warning before you punish your child for the offense it’s not abuse. You give them power the moment you warn them of the consequence, and they now have the choice to do right vs wrong. Obey authority or disobey authority.

    I believe there are some things in life that require a spanking. Straight up in-your-face disobedience needs a spanking, especially if the worst thing that could happen to your child is actual physical pain, dismemberment, or death. Albeit the lesson that was lost on the child should’ve been taught within their first 5 years (who’s the boss?). The likelihood of having to spank them for something should be nonexistent by a certain age. If you have to spank your child past a certain age it becomes weird. And anytime a spanking becomes weird it’s 2 seconds away from being abuse.

    Discipline is a private matter. When it becomes so obnoxious that people can actually see it from the outside there is abuse going on. And what the public sees is only the tip of the iceberg. A simple “we’ll discuss it when we get home” works wonders. And if you are at home then “time out” followed by the discussion of rules and consequences should suffice. Build up to a spanking after a few discussions if necessary, but some kids actually hate lectures enough to do the right thing.

    Having a plan of action with your child before you ever have to spank them is ideal. This was the way I grew up. I knew spanking was a part of the overall discipline routine, yet I was spanked less than a handful of times. When I was spanked I always knew it was coming and I always felt empowered by my ability to make a weighted decision about my own fate before the severe consequence. I was able to to ask myself “was it worth it?” That’s the power of a spanking, never to be confused with abuse. Physical abuse means having no power, no choice, no expectation of how bad it could be at any given time. Abuse is traumatic, spankings are liberating.

    • excepting for the `spanking is liberating’ part. this was a great, great break down. thanks for taking the time.

    • full moon

      Very well said Fruchsia. Interesting perspective.

    • Thea

      Case closed, someone bang the gavel.

  • Carly

    Dear Renee,

    The Op Ed “Whipping and Spanking Are Not Cultural Discipline, They’re Abuse” discusses the use of spanking and how it is dangerous. Martin says that spanking behaviors are usually carried out by African American families. She says that there is pressure on the Black community to raise their children to become the opposite of what is expected in them with school. They want their child to show that they are educated and willing to learn instead of dropping out. In order to instill good behavior whipping and spanking seem like the right thing to do. With schools using corporal punishment for “not following the dress code” and other incidents, spanking seems normal in the black community. However, Martin argues that just because you are black, doesn’t mean spanking is ok. Spanking leads to a violent path and it is abuse to the child.

    I agree with spanking being considered abuse. I think that being exposed to physical punishment and a young age leads to a violent and disturbed path. However, spanking is a huge cultural factor. Even though Martin says that it is not cultural discipline, I think it has everything to do with their culture. If family members accept spanking, then the less likely they will give into social norms and stop spanking. In the south corporal punishment is used so the black community sees it as okay and the normal thing to do.

    There is a lot of reasoning behind why a parent would spank, but I think culture and religious beliefs have mostly everything to do with it.

    Carly Kaplan

    Champaingn, IL