Last week Adrian Peterson, Running Back for the Minnesota Vikings, was indicted by a Grand Jury in Texas for Child Abuse. While discussing it with various people, I have been absolutely stunned by those putting up a defense. Not just defending Peterson, but actually defending the practice of beating a child with a stick.
“You don’t understand because you don’t live in the South.”
“I don’t understand why it is OK to hit a 4-year-old child with a stick?”
“Yes. It is a cultural thing.”
“A cultural thing? What does that even mean?”
“This is how we were brought up.”
This is an actual conversation I had this weekend. In 2014. Now, I fully admit to not being from the South and lacking a regional and cultural context in which these things happen. And by “these things” I mean a child – a 4-year-old child – being beaten with a stick until his legs are bloody. And from what I have heard, this practice isn't exclusive to the South. But maybe, just maybe, my “lack of perspective” in this case is a good thing. Because instead of seeing context. Instead of seeing tradition. I see this:
And I am angry. I am disgusted. Not just at Adrian Peterson, but at any context in which this becomes acceptable and defendable. It is not. No child should endure this. If we did this to a prisoner it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment. And yet, because it is “tradition” it is OK. In some families it is OK to beat a child with stick.
No. It isn't. It is dehumanizing. It is cruel. And if you think it is OK, you are wrong. If your parents did this to you, they were wrong. I’m not saying you don’t love your kids, or your parents didn't love you. We are all fallible. Good intentions do not guarantee good actions.
I understand that a lot of parenting is done in the margins. There isn't some set prescription of how to raise a good human being, and the soul can survive and thrive in spite of many things. So maybe some of you were whipped when you were a child when you stepped out of line. And maybe some of you turned out just fine. But that doesn't mean you deserved it. You did not deserved a “whooping”. I know you think you did, and that is a part of the damage that has been done. When a wife goes back to her husband with two swollen eyes because she thinks “I shouldn't have provoked him” do we nod and laugh and say, “Oh yeah you had that whoopin’ coming!” No. We don’t. We shouldn't. And yet, we hear stories of our parents taking their belts off or sending us into the back yard to pick a switch and look at it with a grin and nostalgia.
“But what about spanking? Is spanking OK?”
I don’t know. We don’t spank our kids. I know plenty of folks who do. I imagine it is easier to scale back an open handed smack to the rear end than it is to adjust how hard you hit a kid with a stick, but just typing that sentence feels ridiculous. I know where the line is for our family. We don’t hit. Other families set that line other places. But we, as a society, set lines too. They are called laws. It is time for beating a child with a stick to be set on the other side of that line, whether it results in bloody lacerations of not.
“But Adrian Peterson said he took it too far. He admitted that.”
Do you even realize how ridiculous that sounds? He was hitting his child with a stick and just got carried away? Oops?
No. He got carried away by picking up a stick in the first place, and no argument is going to convince me otherwise.
“But his mom did it to him.”
This child was beat with a stick until his legs were bloody.
“But children aren't disciplined enough these days.”
This 4-year-old child was beat with a stick until his legs were bloody.
“But that is just a part of the culture.” No. That is not an excuse. Culture can change. I can think of plenty of horrible, dehumanizing "cultural" things we've done in this country that were deemed unacceptable and eventually outlawed. This one’s time has come.
EDIT: A reader on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page shared this comment: First things first - I agree that hitting with objects is never okay. I also think this article does a good job of providing some of the context that you are trying to write off as unacceptable and/or wrong. - Eric This is the article he shared. It is worth reading.