The text from the image above reads: Dear Black People: one factor contributing to our lower life expectancy rates is whupping children. Hitting a child floods the body with stress chemicals that alter the DNA, weakens the immune system, shortens & frays the telomeres which causes cellualr aging and death.
I first came across Dr. Stacey Patton’s work a few years back when I was on the east coast visiting a friend. Her book addressing the way Black people punish their children, was on an end display at the library – this is in an area with a large population of Black people. From what I understand she receives a lot of affirmations from parents as well a plenty of criticism from others, when it comes to this topic. She tweeted the above a few days ago.
Just so we’re clear, I do realize that not all Black people inflict this form of punishment on their kids. I also am well aware that it isn’t just Black people who do this, but my focus is on Black communities since that’s where my efforts are placed when it comes to areas regarding breastfeeding. There’s also no denying that whooping has been very rampant in Black communities. Lately I’ve met more and more Black people who can’t really recall when they’ve received affection while growing up from their parental figure — like a hug — but if you ask nine out of 10 Black people they would tell you they’re familiar with being whooped and would likely recount the different scenarios under which they’ve been subjected to it. I often see and hear Black people joking about how they ‘got it’- and what they were hit with – such as an ironing cord, belt, tree swtich, broom, etc. They laugh about it, while also discussing how they’ve ‘turned out just fine.’ When I come across this I think to myself how sad it is that our abuse has been so normalized that we don’t even recognize the damage it does to us on all levels – across our life span and into the next generations. How receiving this type of punishment causes trauma and harms us by disrupting our ability to have healthy relationships, communicate effectively with each other, causes anxiety, shame, insecurities, depression, stress and so many other detrimental factors — including as Dr. Patton tells us — can ultimately kill us.
The links below are from a couple of videos I found on YouTube. They are posted to be comedic, yet to me are anything but and are actually egregious. The first one is from the popular T.V. show that once aired, Everybody Hates Chris, and even though the different scenes featuring the mother perpetuate a stereotype of an angry, domineering Black woman, what Black feminists call a controlling image, I am here focusing on how she threatens and in some cases abuses her teenage son. Many of the scenes are used to draw audience members in, using phrases we can relate to, acting as feel-good, laughable moments reminiscent of Black childhood. You’ll see. The second one, called Whooping that only black people will understand, is particularly terrifying:
There are plenty of other videos where these two came from.
I think to myself sometimes how this form of punishment and efforts to get people to stay away from it, makes it way into areas that talk about saving Black life, and if Black people who are involved in Black breastfeeding advocacy ever proactively discuss it among the people they encourage to breastfeed or among those who they’re helping to be supportive of breastfeeding. It deserves a lot of attention, since we’re working for the betterment of our community. Researching in the south, I’ve seen things like people hitting or threatening to hit their child(ren) on a regular basis. I’ve even seen the threat of ‘whooping’ a young child in spaces designated to promoting breastfeeding. It’s definitely an oxymoron: come here to have better health and well-being, yet damage that health. It’s extremely hurtful and angers me, and I’ve wanted to intervene at times by at least saying something — but truly there is nothing I can say or do — it’s practically state mandated. Everyone seems to be OK with it – most are even in defense of it, and some schools are still allowed to punish children in this way. I absolutely believe all of thie behavior stems from slavery, where once slavers whipped us to maintain control and to show who was in charge, and to ‘correct us’ by teaching us a lesson, and to instill fear in us and in others around us, has meant we’ve continued that legacy.
I grew up around this behavior and at one point in my life, just like many others, thought this was normal. But that was a long time ago and there is NO part of me today that believes it is OK. I’m really grateful none of the kids in my family know this inhumane treatment, as so many others still do. To me it seems likely that the conversations surrounding ways to increase the longevity as well as the quality of Black people’s lives, should address the way that something like whooping directly counters these goals. If breastfeeding boosts the immune system, helps thwart various diseases, decreases chances of other illnesses and provides better overall wellness, don’t you think it’s crazy to not pay much more attention to how traumatic forms of punishing our children directly goes against all of that?