First of all, let’s not get it twisted. Previous generations of Americans of every color, race and religion swore by spankings, and by many accounts, they knew what they were talking about. Big Momma and Papa, Bubbee and Zaydee, Abuela and Abuelo may have not had the education wielded by our generation, but they sacrificed so that their posterity could obtain the formal education some of us take for granted. Their methods, though intense at times, not only kept us safe, but their values also helped to build a strong nation. In fact, many Americans in my generation become nostalgic over the corporal punishment we received at home or in school, particularly African Americans. Who remembers when Nana told you to bring her a switch? Still, just as the Earth turns, things change. Although the Bible teaches, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son ... ,” our “one nation under God” has continuously debated the issue of physically disciplining our children from generation to generation since 1867. The discussion intensified between 1971 and 1994 when twenty-five states and the District of Columbia banned corporal punishment in public schools. This debate has been particularly poignant in the African American community considering the rise in the incarceration rates of African American males during the same period. Few would argue against the notion that the two leading contributors to the spike in black male incarceration are poverty and the lack of parental guidance, specifically the absence of fathers, plaguing Black America. With respect to parental guidance, the question to include spanking as a disciplinary measure in child rearing sparks controversy even within the black community. As a nation, we must draw a clear distinction between child abuse and spanking, a method of physical discipline that has proven effective for dozens of previous generations. African Americans, in particular, need not only understand this distinction but embrace it. A community facing alarming poverty and disproportionate confinement in the national prison-industrial complex should by no means distance itself from a method proven to instill both discipline and values in children.
Child abuse is undeniably wrong! Throwing a child against a wall is abuse. Verbally demeaning a child is abuse. Burning a child with a cigarette is abuse. Beating a child until she or he stops moving, either from shock or injury, becomes more than abusive, such behavior elevates to the level of being dangerous. Touching a child’s genitals is not only abuse, it is beyond depraved. Spanking a child who unplugs a lamp then attempts to stick another object into the open socket ain’t abuse; that is love. I never strike my children in anger; furthermore, my wife and I thoroughly discuss any and all pending disciplinary actions with the kids before we carry out any form of punishment. Growing up, I believed my father was the strongest man on the planet, and I feared him; not because he was ferocious but because he could send me flying with one swat to my backside. When my parents split up, I tried my mother once or twice. That is when I learned she was the ferocious one. Let’s be honest. Physical reinforcements work. Our military uses physical reinforcements to train our soldiers. Coaches implement tactics based on physical reinforcement models to train athletes, and some parents spank their children in order to reinforce family values. I spank my children, when warranted, because I LOVE them … . They may not remember everything I say, but they certainly remember the consequences of everything they do.
For many American ethnic groups, social movements in the United States over the past fifty years have strengthened their sense of community. Unfortunately for Black America, the reverse seems to be true. African Americans seem less communal than ever, and Mainstream America does everything possible to undermine the entrenched values held by people of African descent and replace those values with its own. Though transformative to some degree, school integration and the so called War on Drugs have negatively impacted the African American community in some ways. It is not a lack of education that sends black males to jail. In fact, how can we trust a government that promotes the very prison-industrial complex that erodes the nuclear family unit in Black America to effectively educate our children? Crime in this country has always grown in proportion to increasing poverty coupled with an ever-expanding population. The so called War on Drugs while virtually ineffective in stemming the tide of controlled substances entering the United States has effectively ensured the incarceration of African American drug dealers at an extremely disproportionate rate to their white counterparts; moreover, studies show that African American males convicted under sentencing guidelines developed for the War on Drugs receive longer sentences plus remain incarcerated for longer periods of time than white drug dealers. So, by way of review, increasing poverty rates drive crime upward, especially the possession and distribution of controlled substances, leading to the almost certain and long-term incarceration of African American males and contributes greatly to the lack of parental guidance, particularly absentee fathers, in the African American community. Fathers and mothers keep kids out of jail. Spanking may not be the “cure-all” for helping African American males avoid interaction with the prison-industrial complex, but increased spankings could be a positive start.
Spanking a child is not abusive if done correctly, meaning this method of discipline is matched with equal parts explaining appropriate and inappropriate behavior and “administering justice”, i.e. the physical reinforcement of family values. Almost nothing in the interaction between human beings could be more deplorable than abusing children. In protecting our children, parents must be courageous enough to provide not only love and positive affirmation but also constructive discipline. Providing discipline to our children can be the hardest thing a parent can do. It is hard but absolutely necessary. Honestly, I hate giving spankings, especially to my girls. It breaks my heart each time. I do it, nonetheless, because the implications of not disciplining my children are unfathomable to me. Love your children and provide them with everything that comes along with that love. God bless!
Amir Clayton Powell is an advocate, author, entrepreneur, father, husband, servant of God, and warrior. By the by, he also happens to be the Publisher of The Old School Journal™ (TOSJ) as well as the Founder & Chairman of A C Powell & Co. LLC. Find A C on Twitter: @AClaytonPowell. Follow TOSJ on Facebook & Twitter. Find books and other essays written by Amir Clayton Powell by following this link.
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