Dr. Stacey Patton: Speaks to Black Folk Who Whup Their Children

"So Black people, when you hit your children you deny them self-possession..."

Dr. Stacey Patton, author of 'Spare The kids', writes:

“I hear many parents say, “there’s a difference between spanking and abuse.” I disagree. There is no appropriate way to hurt a child’s body. Both are forms of violence, both can damage a child’s brain, and both can produce the same karma.”

I was having a conversation with a Black grandmother about hitting children. I told her that in Black culture, this practice is a byproduct of slavery, colonization and indoctrination into a bastardized version of western Christianity, and rampant childism which got implanted into cultures colonized by Europeans.

She frowned at me. "Girl, I ain't never been a slave. Whupping kids ain't got nothin' to do with slavery and all that other mess you talkin'. People been whuppin' kids since the beginning of time."

What she said is simply untrue. The historical archives and anthropological records prove that she is wrong. For example . . .

Prior to contact with whites, the Aborigines of Austrailia did not hit their children and neither did the Ju/'hoansi people of South Africa (among the most peaceful people in the world). It was unheard of! The hunter-gatherers such as the Parakanas of Brazil and the Inuit of the Hudson Bay area, didn't interfere with their children's lives. They never beat them or yelled at them. The Yequana people of Venezuela believed that children belonged to themselves. They never used terms like "my child" or "your child." There was no belief in breaking a child's will. Children were allowed to follow their own will. We don’t find any evidence of ritualistic beatings of children in precolonial West African societies. People in all these societies were trustful of children. Egalitarianism and autonomy, not coercion and control, pervaded relationships between adults and extended to adult interactions with children.

When Europeans observed the indulgence of children in indigenous societies, they were baffled and described this kind of parenting as letting children "run wild." And so this served as part of their justification for colonizing and enslaving people of color. Since childhood in European societies had long been a space of violence and degradation, white people would then model the brutalization of Black bodies on the treatment of their own kids while partially rescuing their own children from some of that sadism. The sadism meted out onto their own children got transferred to their new children -- Black people existing within the paternalistic structure of slavery.

We really need to study history and understand how white supremacy repeatedly recalibrated what childhood meant for white children and children of color in different geographical contexts across time and circumstance. Childhood got reconstructed depending on the social, political and economic needs and always in service to the oppressors in charge. Europeans and Euro Americans divorced Africans and indigenous people from their original understanding of children as spirits, as gods, as mystical, as born blessings vs born in sin, as reincarnated ancestors, as people who entered the world having already previously led deeply spiritual lives. Colonization and slavery transitioned children into "property" and natural objects of violence and control.

Outside of the context of slavery, white people had long believed that their own children were property. That they had no right to consent. Children had no right to self-possession. That violence against children was natural because they were savages and lacked full personhood because they were incomplete in their development. That only adults are entitled to freedom.

So Black people, when you hit your children you deny them self-possession. When you treat them like "your" property, when you deny them the right to consent, when you believe they lack full personhood ... this is all internalized racism.

Just like adults, children want dignity, the ability to claim themselves, and freedom." ~ Dr. Stacey Patton

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