“We hate children.” ~ My pastor as we talked about the Creflo Dollar episode
I reared two sons alongside their father in a two-parent home. Black parents. We had a commitment to be as “violent-free” in our parenting as possible. We didn’t always pull it off. My children can tell you how many “whippings” they got because they were that few. And even then, those whippings were borne out of their parents’ lack of restraint, sense of embarrassment, frustration, or sense of having been disrespected. My ex- and I often checked one another’s behavior with these boys with these words: “We’re the adults. ACT like it.” Expecting toddlers not to throw tantrums is ridiculous. Expecting teenagers not to be insolent or even disrespectful is a sign that parents know nothing about stages of development, OR that they don’t remember their own growing curves. Granted, neither of us came from much parental violence. I didn’t say “any,” I said MUCH. My husband liked to tell the story that his father would talk to him to the point that he WISHED for a beating. I have story after story of my mother choosing more creative ways to discipline me. Which is why I remember two whippings in my life from my mother, neither of which I thought I deserved; both of which she said later (when I was grown) that I was right.
I was appalled in the light of the Dollar family story. This post is not about Creflo Dollar (though I do think it’s about my sympathy and concern for his daughters, the 15-year-old who was attacked and 19-year-old who was there). And yes, if you beat a child with a shoe and wrestle him or her to the ground because you want to “give them something to cry about,” you attacked her. OK. Maybe this post IS about the Dollar episode. But several people have written very good pieces on this matter, like the one at Crunk Feminist Collective or the one by Mansfield Frazier on Creflo Dollar’s corporal punishment defense.
I was appalled because consistently I saw statements like: “Good for him for yanking her butt,” or “these children.” I was shocked that people were quick to give Dollar the “benefit of the doubt” (“we don’t know what happened”) while immediately and virulently vilifying the daughter who called 911. I confess. I once told my then 15-year-old son who threatened to call the police on me: “Do it. And we’ll see who’s standing when they come; one of us will go to the hospital; the other one will go to jail.” I hadn’t put my hand on him, but I was threatening him. I am not proud of that statement or that moment.
I have been stunned by people’s willingness to call a violent act discipline, even as I confess (and have repented to my children that I’ve participated in this behavior). Discipline comes from the same root as “disciple.” Discipline assumes the more mature parent seeks to teach not to punish. But much of the language on Facebook among black folk has been punitive. I had a flash of that scene in the movie, The Color Purple, when Harpo asks Celie for insight on how to “control” Sophie. Celie, who has been brutally beaten and sexually assaulted from it seems birth, says, “beat her.” And THAT is the point I want to make on this post. People tend to go with the brutality that was visited upon them (as in, “I was beat within an inch of my life and I turned out okay.” I really want to say, “No, you didn’t, boo. You survived brutality and you’re still working that ish out on people. Get you a good therapist and work on that”).
I’ll say more on the next blog on how we think we own our children… we don’t.